How to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower 2019

Last updated at 11:10
polar-stars-during-a-meteor-shower.Science Photo Library
This time exposure photograph shows a series of polar stars during a meteor shower

UK stargazers looking forward to the annual Perseid Meteor Shower may be disappointed this year, as it's not going to be the best year to see it, unfortunately.

The shower takes place over a period of a few days, peaking across one or two nights. These peak nights usually fall in mid-August, with the best night for viewing the 2019 Perseids falling on 12 August.

But it's going to be difficult to see this year for two reasons:

  1. There is a full Moon, which will cause light pollution
  2. The weather isn't going to be very good across many parts of the UK, so rain and clouds could get in the way

Find out more about the shower below.

What is the Perseid Meteor Shower?

The Perseid Meteor Shower started in late July. It is made up of hundreds of meteors streaking across the sky in a beautiful natural firework show, which is visible around the world.

The meteors hit the Earth's atmosphere at a whopping speed of 134,000 mph, but don't pose any danger to us on Earth.

The Perseids - pronounced 'Per-see-ids' - are actually tiny pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet that can be seen every year when the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris.

The pieces of ice and dust which make up the shower can be as small as a grain of sand or as big as a pea.

They were left behind when Swift-Tuttle passed close to Earth - the last time being in 1992.

Perseid-meteor-shower.Science Photo Library
Why is it called the Perseid Meteor Shower?

Meteors that form part of the same shower have similar orbits and appear to come from the same place in the sky. This place is called the 'radiant'.

They are named based on the location of their radiant.

For the Perseids, the radiant is within the constellation Perseus - and so that's where it gets its name 'Perseid' from.

How can I see the Perseid meteor shower?

BBC Weather presenter Darren Bett explained to Newsround: "The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks tonight but some parts of the country, particularly in the west, may not see it because there will be cloud and rain showers at times

"Eastern parts of the UK will have clearer skies but the moon is going to be very full and very bright, so this will make the weaker dimmer meteors much more difficult to see."

The great thing about the Perseids is that unlike some other cosmic events, you don't need any special technology to watch them.

The Nasa website says: "Note that telescopes or binoculars are not recommended!"

It's best to find a wide open space away from tall buildings or trees, and with as little light as possible. This is why the full Moon this year is going to be problematic.

The more of the sky you can see, the better.

Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky so don't worry about looking in any particular direction.

Nasa website

It's important to let your eyes adjust to the dark too, which can take up to 30 minutes. Make sure you're not playing on your phone while you're out, as the bright light from your screen could affect how your night vision has adjusted to the dark.

However, with the weather being cloudy and rainy across a lot of the UK - and with a bright full Moon in the sky - it's not going to be very easy to see them in the UK this year unfortunately.

Perseid-meteor-shower.Science Photo Library