Weather conditions are expected to be favourable for the Perseid meteor shower, which should give its best display from late Monday evening to early Tuesday morning, forecasters say.
Matt Dobson, of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: “It’s looking pretty good for people to have a chance to see the meteor shower across large parts of the country, including the London area, with a lot of clear skies expected on Monday night.
“We are expecting it to be clearest in parts of central and southern England and also in the east of Wales, with clear spells coming and going from dusk onward.
“It should be a little bit cloudier in western parts of the country such as Cornwall, Devon, the west of Wales, Cumbria and western Scotland.
“The best thing for star gazers to do is obviously to get away from any sources of light in big cities.”
The Perseid meteor shower is an annual event, but the Royal Astronomical Society believes prospects for this year’s showing are particularly good and could mean up to 60 shooting stars an hour in the UK.
Stargazers will need only their own eyes to enjoy the natural occurrence, which is a result of material falling from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992.
“Comet Swift-Tuttle won’t be visiting our neck of the woods again until the year 2125, but every year we get this beautiful reminder as the Earth ploughs through the debris it leaves in its orbit,” said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen’s University Belfast.
“Every meteor is a speck of comet dust vaporising as it enters our atmosphere at 36 miles per second. What a glorious way to go.”
Brecon Beacons in south Wales has been tipped as one of the best places to watch the meteor shower but is expected to see cloud come in from Ireland later in the night.
Galloway Forest Park, which can boast being one of only four “Dark Sky Parks” in the western world, will also have some cloudy patches.
Those wishing to see the spectacle in the London area and the south east are advised to head for the North Downs or the Chilterns.
People may also get a glimpse of larger “fireballs”, according to Brendan Owens, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
He said the Earth would pass through the comet’s trail like a snowplough, with material of different sizes being trapped by the planet’s gravity. The larger material may fall to earth as meteorites.
“If people are extremely lucky, we can see some fireballs, which are large chunks that … don’t completely burn up,” he said.
“Sometimes it ends up with meteorites. There is a possibility of meteorite impact but it is very small.”
He people watching in the London area would also see the International Space Station, which will be visible as a bright light passing west to east above the capital for three minutes about 11pm.
Source: The Guardian
Photo credit: Peter Komka