If you find yourself struggling to sleep tonight, seek comfort in the fact you could catch a glimpse of a stunning meteor shower.
The Perseid meteor shower is a highlight of the celestial calendar and this year is active from 17 July to 24 August, with some countries having already been treated to some spectacular views.
But its UK peak is still to come and – if skies are clear – it will be visible across much of the country from around midnight until 5.30am tomorrow.
Even though each meteor is mostly no bigger than a grain of sand, they still produce an eye-catching shooting stream of light in the sky as they burn up upon hitting the atmosphere at 36 miles per hour.
They are produced each year when the Earth ploughs through dusty debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, and can reach scorching temperatures of between 1,648C and 5,537C.
Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) has compiled a guide for those hoping to take part in some star-gazing, with the timing of the shower perfect for youngsters who can afford a late night during their summer break.
Some top tips include:
- Head into the countryside – you should reduce the amount of light pollution in your field of view, so consider going out into nature or a local park if you live in a built-up area.
- Keep your eyes off your phone – giving your eyes time to adjust to the dark will help you catch a glimpse of some of the fainter meteors.
- Do not rely on binoculars – they will restrict the size of the sky that will be visible to you, as will telescopes.
RMG describes the Perseid shower – named because the meteors appear to dart out of the Perseus constellation, after the hero of Greek myths – as “simply one of the best meteor showers of the year”.
Thankfully, the Met Office is forecasting good conditions for most of the UK, with skies to be clearest in Wales, central and southern England, with decent spells in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Meteorologist Bonnie Diamond said: “It should look like a decent night for most places.
“Weather tonight is largely dry for many but there is potentially some showers affecting western coasts later this evening and generally dying out overnight, where it might be cloudier.
“So there will be a bit of cloud around but some really good gaps.”