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The Best Meteor Shower of the year peaks tonight, 150 shooting stars PER HOUR



One of the best times of the year for stargazers, the Perseids meteor shower is expected to illuminate the night skies tonight.


The Perseids, also referred to as the "fiery tears of Saint Lawrence," will be visible in clear skies starting after sunset tomorrow and continuing until Saturday morning.



According to Royal Observatory Greenwich, this time of year, there may be up to 150 shooting stars each hour.


The celestial event takes place when the Earth ploughs through galactic debris left by the passing of the Swift-Tuttle Comet.


NASA says it's considered 'the best meteor shower of the year' and one of the most plentiful showers' with 'swift and bright meteors'. 




The meteors are called Perseids because they seem to dart out of Perseus, a constellation in the northern sky, which itself is named after the Greek mythological hero Perseus


The Met Office told MailOnline that skies are expected to be completely clear for much of the UK, with excellent viewing conditions for the shower.


'Clear skies are also expected for most of the UK on Friday night for the Perseids meteor showers,' a Met Office spokesperson said


'However again there will be a layer of cloud in northwest Scotland making for poor viewing conditions here.'


It's possibly that light from the extra-bright full moon could make the Perseids harder to see. When watching for meteors, the darker the sky the better.


'The bright moon may also make viewing the meteor shower a little more difficult at times,' the Met Office spokesperson said.

 


Meteors, also known as shooting stars, come from leftover comet particles and bits from broken asteroids.


When comets come around the sun, the dust they emit gradually spreads into a dusty trail around their orbits. 


Every year, Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colourful streaks in the sky.    


However, the events won't pose a threat to humans as the objects nearly always burn up in our atmosphere before reaching the planet's surface.  


The Swift-Tuttle Comet, which causes the Perseids, spans 16-miles wide and is formed of ice and rock.


It ploughs through our Solar System once every 133 years, with the last pass in 1992.


The comet will come within one million miles of Earth on August 5, 2126 and August 24, 2261.



The name 'Perseids meteor shower' comes from the fact meteors appear to shoot out from the Perseus constellation – the 24th largest constellation in the sky. 


Stargazers need to look northeast to locate Perseus, thought to resemble Greek hero Perseus raising a sword above his head. 


The event is best for viewing in the Northern Hemisphere during the pre-dawn hours, although sometimes it is possible to view them as early as 10pm. 


'The radiant for the Perseids – the point in the sky the meteors appear to come from –  is in Perseus, and high in the Northern Hemisphere of the sky,' said Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society.


'It's 58 degrees north of the celestial equator, which means it would be overhead from 58 degrees north (the latitude of places like Ullapool in Scotland). 

'This also means the radiant never rises for places south of 32 degrees south, so the southernmost parts of Australia, and much of Argentina and Chile.

 


'The upshot is that the Northern Hemisphere has the best potential view, as the radiant is higher in the sky and visible for longer, so in theory more meteors are visible. 

'As you move further south the number declines, and south of 32 degrees south essentially none are seen.'  


The next major meteor shower will be the Draconids in October, although it tends to tends to be a less active shower than the Perseids. 


The Draconid meteor shower comes from the debris of comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner – a small comet with a diameter of 1.24 miles (2 kilometers). 

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