What is the Perseid meteor shower?
- Every year, the Earth goes once around the Sun. And every August, the Earth crashes into a cloud of debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. As the debris burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere, it produces the meteor shower that we call the Perseids.
- At its peak, the Perseids can produce an amazing 150 meteors per hour (that’s one every 20-30 seconds!). They’re usually bright with long trails and there’s also a good chance of seeing one that becomes a fireball.
When is the best time to see the Perseid meteor shower in 2022?
- The best time to see the Perseids in 2022 is late Friday 12th August (close to midnight) or early Saturday 13th August (before dawn).
- Unfortunately, there’s also a full moon this year at the same time, so viewing conditions will be poor. Dark, clear skies are always best for seeing meteors.
- However, the Perseids will start appearing from 17th July, so keep your eyes peeled. The number of meteors will increase steadily each night until their peak on 12-13th August and then drop off rapidly before finishing completely by 24th August.
How can I see the Perseid meteor shower from the UK?
- You don’t need any special equipment to see the Perseid meteor shower from the UK but a bit of preparation is a good idea.
- First, check the weather forecast. If it’s going to be cloudy, then try the days before the peak viewing period. These are normally better than the days after the peak has occurred and you’ll still see plenty of meteors.
- Next, find a dark (but safe!) place with a clear view away from buildings, trees, and street lights. The Perseids can appear from any part of the sky, so the more sky you can see the better.
- Also, make sure you turn off all torches and phones for 15 minutes so that your eyes can adjust to the darkness. If you need to use a torch, then consider buying one with a red filter.
- Finally, make sure that you’re warm and comfortable. The Perseids can be viewed for many hours, so a reclining chair and refreshing beverages are an excellent idea.
If you are planning to take pictures of meteors, Mary McIntyre has some very useful tips for you on how to take better meteor pictures.
Another great way to watch the Perseids is to buy or build yourself a meteor camera. You’ll be able to create amazing time lapse videos like the one below and join the UK network of over 170 meteor cameras. You don’t need any previous experience and it’s a great project to do with your kids or students!
Fun facts about the Perseid meteor shower
- They’re called the Perseids because the meteors seem to come from the constellation of Perseus. However, they’re actually caused by the Earth crashing into debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.
- The Perseids had been observed for thousands of years but it was Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1862 who realised the connection between comets and meteor showers.
- The average speed for a Perseid meteor is 36 miles per second (that’s 129,600 miles per hour!). The air in front of the meteor is squashed and heated to thousands of degrees Celsius. The smaller meteors vaporise and leave behind a bright trail but larger meteors can explode as fireballs.
- Perseus was the Greek hero who beheaded Gorgon Medusa and later married Andromeda. They had nine children together and the word ‘Perseids’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Perseides’, which refers to their descendants.