Here’s how to watch the Perseid meteor shower where you live - and when it will peak tonight

(Photo: CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)(Photo: CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)

The Perseid meteor shower began in mid-July, but won’t hit its ‘peak’ until tonight.

In full flow, the spectacular display could produce up to 100 ‘shooting stars’ an hour.

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The shower is expected to peak on the night of Wednesday 12 August, though the evenings following that date will also offer excellent views.

Here's everything you need to know about how to see the shower.

What are the Perseids?

The Perseids are an annual meteor shower that peaks in August. In 2020, they technically take place between the dates of 17 July and 24 August.

The phenomenon is caused by debris from the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet entering the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up, appearing as bright streaks of light crossing the sky.

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The particles - which can be as small as a grain of sand - meet a fiery end after roughly a thousand years, as part of the comet’s dust cloud.

The Perseids are so-called because the point from which they appear, known as the radiant, lies in the constellation of Perseus.

When is the best time to see them?

Although the shower peaks on 12 August, you’ll be able to see a number of shooting stars a couple of nights following that date.

Unfortunately, you may have to stay up late or set your alarm for an early start if you want to spot the best of the display. The ideal time for meteor-spotting is when the sky is at its darkest - between 1am and the onset of dawn.

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How regular will the meteors be?

The Perseids are one of the more active meteor showers on stargazers’ calendars, producing an average of between 60 and 100 shooting stars an hour at their peak.

The shower in 2017’s was especially active, delivering up to 150 meteors an hour at its height. While the shooting stars this year won’t be quite as regular, stargazers can still expect to see around 70 of them an hour.

Do I need special equipment to see the Perseids?

Meteor showers are typically visible with the naked eye, so no special equipment is needed, but those in rural areas with minimal light pollution will have a clearer view.

Heading out to a dark spot is the best plan of action, but stargazers should allow around 20 minutes for their eyes to become accustomed to the dark. Patience is also a virtue, with shooting stars tending to appear in clusters, followed by a lull.

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The meteors will appear to come from the direction of the Perseus constellation in the north eastern part of the sky, although they should be visible from any point.

A cloudy night could still scupper your chances of spotting any meteors, however, so keep your eye on weather forecasts.

With thundery weather forecast for much of the UK towards the middle of the week, the Perseids may be a washout this year.

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