The annual Perseids meteor shower is possibly the most eagerly anticipated by astronomers. For several years now the Perseids have resulted in a great show with dozens of bright meteors being spotted per hour around the peak of their activity.
Each year as the Earth travels on its orbit around the Sun it encounters a vast swathe of cosmic dust left over by the comet Swift-Tuttle. As these tiny dust particles enter Earth’s atmosphere at great speed they burn up leaving a brief but bright trail — a shooting star!
Perseid meteors can be identified as they appear to radiate from the constellation of Perseus, hence their name. The shower takes place each year from July 14th through to August 24th with the peak in meteor numbers (the time when the Earth passes through the densest of the dust) on the evening of August 12th / morning of August 13th. The very best time to see them is the early hours of August 13th.
Unfortunately the 2017 shower will be a little spoiled by the moon which rises late evening — it’s moonlight drowning out any dark skies meaning only the brighter meteors will be seen. Even still it promises to be a good show presuming the weather is favourable!
For the best place to see the Perseids meteor shower the most important requirement is a wide open space where you can see as much of the sky as possible. This year there’s no advantage in travelling any great distance to a dark sky site as the moon will overcome any darkness. It’s still advantageous though to get away from light polluted areas even if only a few miles out of town.
If you’re interested in photography check this fantastic guide on how to photograph the Perseid meteors by expert astrophotographer Alyn Wallace.
Places to see the Perseid meteor shower
The map shows recommended stargazing locations including official dark sky sites.
Perseid meteor shower public stargazing events
The following events are taking place during the peak period 11th August to 14th August.
Perseid stargazing events