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French skies to light up in mega meteor shower

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French skies to light up in mega meteor shower
Stargazers at a previous viewing of the Perseid meteor shower. Photo: AFP
15:49 CEST+02:00
Look up to the night skies on Wednesday as this year's Perseid meteor shower promises to be quite a show. Here's everything you need to know for a night of stargazing.

When: 

The shower has been active since the 13th of July and will continue until the end of August. But activity will peak on Wednesday night (August 12-13th), the day before a new moon, meaning the skies will be darker than usual and the shooting stars more visible.

Stay up late or even rise early as some of the best showings occur just before dawn.


(Photo: AFP)

Where:

The meteorite shower is visible across the northern hemisphere but will be especially good in southern Europe. This means it's best to head to southern France to catch a glimpse. And experts have predicted up to one hundred shooting stars in an hour.

Find a place as far away from light pollution as possible so head to wide open spaces away from the city. Mountains and beaches are perfect. Then face northeast and enjoy the show.

"What makes this year's Perseids better than most is the fact that the Moon will not be lighting up the sky, and there is a good chance that the shower will be given a 'shot in the arm' as Earth may encounter more meteors along its orbit than usual," astronomer Tom Callen told The Local.

How:

The shooting stars are visible to the naked eye so no need for binoculars or a telescope but allow yourself to become accustomed to the darkness which usually takes around 20 minutes. And have patience as the shower comes in spurts - nothing for a while and then a sudden flurry of activity.


(Photo: AFP)

What to bring:

Unlike some celestial events, one doesn't need special technology to watch the Perseids unfold. Just make sure you're not around artificial light.
   
"The more of the sky you can see the better," astronomer Affelia Wibisono from the Royal Observatory Greenwich told the AFP news agency. "You don't need any binoculars or telescopes. It's actually better if you use your eyes."
   
The only equipment she suggested was a nice comfy chair from which to watch the show, and some warm clothes.
 

(Photo: AFP)

What it is:

Shooting stars are caused by tiny flecks of comet hitting the earth's atmosphere. The Perseids occur annually when the orbit of Earth crosses into the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which only swings around the Solar System every 130 years or so.   

As Earth races around the Sun, these grains smash into the atmosphere at about 60 kilometres per second, burning up in flashes of light.
   
Occasionally, longer and brighter streaks are seen, from pea- or marble-sized comet remnants.The Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus because that is where the meteors seem to originate from when looking up at the sky.

Nasa advises: "If you see one meteor shower this year, make it August's Perseids or December's Geminids. The Perseids feature fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains, and in 2015 there will be no moonlight to upstage the shower."

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