Get ready for the annual Perseid meteor shower this week, one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the astronomical calendar. Although December’s Geminid shower is richer, the Perseids have become very popular, largely due to the mild summer nights. In a favourable year, when the Moon is out of the way, as many as 50–70 meteors per hour can be seen at the shower’s peak.
A bright Perseid meteor streaks across the sky in 2016. Image: Jeremy Perez.
The Perseids are usually active to some degree from around mid-July to late August. This year, the shower is predicted to peak between 10:00 and 13:00 UT on Wednesday, 12 August. This favours observers in North America, with observers on the European side of the pond urged to observe overnight Tuesday and Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the Moon will interfere with observations on both nights, but not to the same extent as in 2019, when it was close to a full-phase. The Perseid radiant, lying in northern Perseus close to the superb Double Cluster, is well up in the north-eastern sky by 11pm BST (22:00 UT) and climbs to an altitude of 50 degrees by 2am BST (01:00 UT).
On Tuesday night ...