The important thing to think about with the Perseid Meteor Shower this year is that it lasts basically all month, you can see it with the naked eye, and it’s back next year too.
The Perseid Meteor Shower is the highlight for many meteor watchers as it has a really high meteor per hour rate and is very easy to spot. There are another bunch of meteors that normally fall during our winter so searching for these are much more enjoyable! This quick guide should be able to help you find them. Our top tip: look up!
We LOVE space, and are both members of astronomy societies, it’s a joint obsession of ours and we have plenty of posts about amazing things to do like this Greenwich date day we had!
The Perseid Meteor Shower is around for most of August, reaching its peak on the 11/12th August this year. You can see the meteors most of the night from sunset, but the most fall between midnight and 5am. If you can, try to see them when there’s no moon/crescent moon or the moon is below the horizon as believe it or not, it causes light pollution!
The perfect way to see the Perseid Meteor Shower in August is to sit on a garden chair, recliner or blanket, comfortably in an area with lots of sky space. We don’t have a garden so head to the local park armed with tea and a blanket! Make sure you’re warm enough too!
You can see the Perseid meteor shower with the naked eye and no specialist knowledge. You can see them, even in London or other cities with more light pollution, you just wont see as many. Keep your eyes fixed on the sky. Try not to look away and really try not to look at your phone at all both to help your eyes focus and so you don’t miss any!
You will be able to see the Perseid meteor shower wherever you are, but clear weather is the best. The days before the peak are better than the days after. If you can avoid light pollution that will be better and make sure you give your eyes 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness, wherever you are. Try and find somewhere with a big field of view – the more sky you can see, the more meteors you will see, as they can appear in any part of the sky.
The perseid Meteor Shower meteors can be traced back to a point in the sky – the radiant. This is Perseus (see the name links) but you don’t need to look in Perseus to see the Perseids, in fact it can be better looking away from it as the meteors can appear anywhere in any direction!
What is the Perseid Meteor Shower? Meteors are bits of comets that have broken off and reached the earth’s atmosphere. As comets get close to the sun the heat causes bits to break off and they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at around 45 miles per second at their fastest. The average speed for a Perseid meteor is 36 miles per second!
The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees. Then the smaller meteors vaporise and leave behind a bright trail of light. But, larger meteors can explode as fireballs.
Don’t confuse them with satellites
Don’t worry if you don’t see one straight away. They are really obvious when you do see them. Satellites, the ISS, space junk and the SpaceX Starlink satellites all look different to meteors. These things look like faint stars moving across the sky in different directions – normally in a straight line. Unfortunately with how we have been with space, you may see more of these than Perseid meteors.
Perseid Meteors on the other hand are much more impressive. A meteor literally is a shooting star. A bright streak of light that can last less than a second or more. Some larger meteors appear as bright fireballs with persistent trains that can last a few seconds.
How to take photos of them?
We haven’t nailed it without help yet, but there is a great video from Royal Observatory Greenwich that details it really well that you can see here:
Perseid meteor shower 2020 | When, where & how to see it in the UK
May you stay warm, have clear skies and enjoy this magical spectacle.