Perseid fireworks a ‘damp squib’

Tonight is the night when one of the year’s great meteor showers puts on its best performance – yes, it is the maximum of the Perseids.

So of course, after a long hot summer heatwave, the weather has decided to turn particularly bizarre and produce its own non-meteor shower here in the south east of England. In fact it has been bucketing down all day with squally conditions blowing down from the north.

It is good for the garden, everyone says. And in truth the Moon was already going to put its own dampener on events. Just past full, it will drown out many of the meteors even if you are lucky enough to have clear skies in your part of the world. Normally one might expect to see one every two or three minutes at maximum.

The shooting stars are produced as the Earth passes through a vast river of dust left by a passing comet called Tempel-Tuttle. They look bright but are usually no bigger than grains of sand, glowing as they vapourise in the upper atmosphere.

The good news is that the shower will continue for a week or more yet and although the rates will diminish, the Moon will interfere less and less.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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