Skywatchers will be treated to one of the year’s biggest cosmic light shows overnight, with the Perseid meteor shower about to reach its peak.
The annual shower, famed for its high number of “shooting stars”, is caused by debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which moves across the skies from late July until late August, peaking in the early hours of August 12.
Therefore staying up late tonight (August 11), or getting up before dawn tomorrow (August 12) will give viewers the chance to see the meteors and fireballs. They are best seen between 2am and dawn.
Fireballs are caused by larger particles of comet material, and can persist in the sky longer than the average meteor streak.
Unfortunately, according to NASA, a bright moon will impede the viewing somewhat – reducing visible meteors from the usual rate of over 60 per hour down to 15-20.
To get the best possible view, try and go to a place with as little light pollution as possible, and from there, you don’t need to focus on a particular part of the sky – meteors could appear in any part.
The Perseid shower arrives hot on the tail of Comet Neowise, which made a rare visit past the Earth over the month of July.
That comet gave stargazers the chance to observe its stunning trail of debris, but it will be another 7,000 years until humans get to watch it again from Earth.