December 5 2013 Latest news:
Sabah Meddings and Liam Dougal
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Britain’s skies sparkled this week with the return of an annual meteor shower - gracing skies across the globe.
The Perseid meteor shower is the result of material falling from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992.
The trail of this comet - the meteor shower we can see - collides with the atmosphere as the Earth passes into the trail in its orbit of the Sun.
Fragments of the trail then burn up which leads to the streams of light we are able to see in the night sky.
Much of this debris will be very small, but the friction created by the movement through our atmosphere makes it visible from the ground.
The name ‘Perseid’ links to the Perseus Constellation which is the area the shower appears to radiate from.
Those watching the night sky could see ‘shooting stars’ fly across the cosmos providing a spectacular display of ‘nature’s fireworks’.
The Perseids meteor shower peaks each year between August 11 to 13, and although the past two days heralded the most spectacular display, tonight’s skies still promise to produce a glimspe of more of ‘nature’s fireworks’.
Mark Thompson, television broadcaster, astronomer and president of the Norwich Astronomical Society, said meteors will still be visable for the next week and a half.
The presenter of BBC’s Stargazing Live, said: “Norfolk is a great place to view the shower because we have lots of rural areas.
“Find somewhere dark, get comfortable and keep your eyes peeled and fingers crossed.”
The flashing lights come from the tiny fragments of ice and dust, ranging in size from a grain of sand to the size of a pea, which hit the Earth’s atmosphere at around 60km/s.
As many as 60 to 100 streaks of light an hour were visible at the height of the display.
And with the shower clearly visable with the naked eye, viewers don’t need specialist equipment, even to capture the moment on camera.
Mr Thompson said: “A standard camera with a long exposure should work.
“The challenge is however that you never know where they’re going to be.”
Skywatchers are advised to lie on a blanket or reclining chair to get the best view, away from bright lights and street lamps.
And with the sky lighting up with ‘shooting stars’ budding photographers battled to capture the perfect picture.