KEEN ASTRONOMERS are being encouraged to get out early and persevere to gain a glimpse of this week’s Perseid meteor shower.
The Earth is now inside the stream of dusty debris from periodic comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, parent of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Consequently, observers are reporting increasing Perseid meteor activity.
Dr John Mason from the South Down’s Planetarium in Chichester explains:
“The Perseids are one of the most reliable meteor showers of the year, producing an abundance of fast, bright meteors, many with persistent trains.
“This year, some observers may be put off by the fact that there is a bright full moon on August 15, just a couple of days after the peak of the shower – predicted for just after dawn UK time on Tuesday, August 13.
“Bright moonlight certainly has an adverse effect on meteor observing, lunar glare swamping out all but the brighter meteors, but the good news is that the near full moon will be low down in Sagittarius.
“Visual observers may minimize the effects of moonlight by positioning themselves so the Moon is behind them and hidden behind a wall or other suitable obstruction. This is easiest when the moon is fairly low in the southern sky as it will be for the Perseids this year.
“The other good news is that many Perseid meteors are bright and there is a high percentage of fireballs, easily visible in spite of the bright Moon.”
Another way to beat the moonlight is to go out a few days earlier than usual to watch the progress of the shower, Sunday (August 11) when the Moon is less obtrusive, particularly during the early morning hours.
The shower will continue to be active until about August 24.
Dr Mason also confirmed that people should not be put off by the weather forecast which suggests there will be plenty of showers and thunderstorms during the next week or so as it is quite often the case that after a good thunderstorm or heavy spell of rain, the atmosphere, once the clouds break, is quite clear giving decent views.
By Kelly Wickham