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How and when to see the best meteor shower of the year this August





A meteor shower dubbed 'the best of the year' will light up the skies this month offering the best chance to see a shooting star this year.

With the right conditions star gazers stand to see up to 60 ‘bright, fast meteors’ every hour at its peak – but how can you catch the best of the display?

The Perseid shower is said to be the best meteor shower of the year. iStock image.
The Perseid shower is said to be the best meteor shower of the year. iStock image.

What is the Perseid meteor shower?

The Perseid meteor shower is caused by Earth passing through debris in the sky that has been left behind by a comet.

The event has in fact already begun, with some sky gazers noticing activity from around the middle to end of July.

However the peak of activity is expected to be on the evening of Sunday, August 12 continuing into the early hours of Monday when it is hoped people will be treated to the best view

It will peak on August 12. Image: iStock.
It will peak on August 12. Image: iStock.

What to look for

Perseids will appear like short bursts of flashing light as tiny bits of material from the comet in its orbit meet the Earth's atmosphere at rapid speed.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich says that meteors in the Perseid shower are bright and fast and often leave trains as they sweep through.

While most of the comet's rubble will each be no larger than a grain of sand, some larger particles, the size of peas or small pebbles, create the effect similar to that which we associate with the appearance of a shooting star.

Experts from the Royal Astronomical Society say, with the right conditions, observers could potentially see up to 50 or 60 in an hour throughout the peak on Sunday night.

This meteor shower is described as the 'best of the year' because it is the brightest and most active during the astronomical calendar while its August appearance means there should be the greatest chance for good weather and clearer skies.

There could be up to 60 meteors every hour. Image: iStock.
There could be up to 60 meteors every hour. Image: iStock.

Will it be easy to see?

This meteor shower is also a popular event for budding astronomers because of the ease with which it can usually be seen without the need for high-tech equipment. No in-depth knowledge of constellations is required either to make things even more straightforward.

But a first-class display will need favourable weather conditions to give those watching from Earth the best view.

A cloud-free sky helps meteor seekers have the best view of the shower so now is the time to cross your fingers for some good summer weather.

A dark sky will also help, so if you can, watch from somewhere that doesn't experience a lot of light pollution and you may choose not to head out until quite late into the evening.

And thirdly, aim for a wide open space. The more sky you have visible from where you're stood, the greater chance you'll have of seeing the meteors streak across the sky above you.

Viewers need to aim for a clear sky away from light pollution. Image: iStock.
Viewers need to aim for a clear sky away from light pollution. Image: iStock.

If you miss it...

This spectacular natural fireworks display is unlikely to be a one-night only affair.

Even if you miss the expected peak, particularly if the weather is poor and there is too much cloud, don't be afraid to look up again on the following night.

The shower, as in previous years, usually continues in the northern hemisphere for a few days after the main event.



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