The Perseids meteor show will reach its peak tonight (August 12-13), with up to 100 ‘shooting stars’ appearing in the sky each hour.
This annual ‘shooting star’ event is caused when the Earth passes through the stream of debris left in the wake of Comet Swift-Tuttle, bringing pieces of matter crashing into the upper atmosphere at high speed and lighting up the night sky.
The Perseids are so named because the meteors appear to come from the Perseus constellation, which is located near one of the brightest star formations, Cassiopeia the Queen.
It may be slightly more difficult to see the Perseids tonight – despite their frequency – because of the nearly full Moon, but the brightest meteors should still be visible to the naked eye.
To improve your chances of seeing the shooting stars, you should find a dark spot away from the light pollution of cities.
Meteor showers are best viewed at the darkest point of night, after midnight. Your eyes need some time to adjust to the darkness, so you should wait for a while before expecting to see anything.
Although the ‘shooting stars’ appear to come from the Perseus constellation, you do not necessarily need to look in any particular direction to see the meteor shower, and it will not help to use binoculars or a telescope.
The Perseids can be seen until around August 25, so if the Moon is too bright tonight you could choose to wait until it has waned somewhat.