Great year to catch Perseid fireworks

Meteor watchers in the northern hemisphere are in heaven during the summer months when generally warmer nights coincide with a good period of meteor activity.

Perseid meteorThe most famous annual shower, the Perseid shows its first signs in the next few days, building to a climax around August 12th. When at its peak, you should not have to watch a clear sky for very long before seeing one of its fast-moving “shooting stars”.

Conditions for observing the Perseids – so-called because the stream of comet dust that causes them appears to radiate from the constellation of Perseus – are excellent in 2007.

Around maximum, when most people are keen to observe, the Moon will be out of the night sky and so will not drown out the spectacle with its light. This means, however, that it will be more difficult to view the shower’s “early birds” in mid to late July.

At best, the Perseids produce a ZHR, or zenithal hourly rate, of around 100 for a single observer. The figure is an estimate of the numbers that would be seen if the shower’s radiant lay directly overhead. Don’t expect to see more than a tiny handful during the early period of activity, however.

There are other meteor streams active in July. According to the Meteor Section of the Society for Popular Astronomy, the Delta Aquarids are the strongest and show a peak ZHR or 15-20 arund July 28.

Less active still is the Alpha Capricornids which may be seen from early July to mid August. Peak ZHR numbers only reach five or so most years, but when they do appear they are often bright and spectacular.

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

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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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