French skies to light up in mega meteor shower

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.

French skies to light up in mega meteor shower
Stargazers at a previous viewing of the Perseid meteor shower. Photo: AFP


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)


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.


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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Eclipse: What you need to know to catch Friday’s blood moon in France

The stars are set to be outshone by a Blood Moon in the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century which will be visible all across France on Friday. Here's what you need to know about this astronomical phenomenon and how to see it at its best.

Eclipse: What you need to know to catch Friday's blood moon in France
Illustration photo: A full moon and the Eiffel tower are seen in Paris on July 3, 2015. AFP
What will the eclipse look like?
In a lunar eclipse the moon appears darkened as it passes into the Earth's shadow. 
During Friday's eclipse, the moon will gradually take on a reddish hue as it advances into the Earth's shadow and the colour will look “a little like when the sun sets on the horizon”, according to a spokesman for the French Association of Astronomy Clément Plantureux. 
But it seems the exact shade of red that will appear is hard to guess. 
“Dark red, intense or coppery, it's difficult to predict,” Pascal Descamps, astronomer at the Paris Observatory told BFM TV. “This red tint comes from a filtering effect of the Earth's atmosphere… so the intensity of the coloring will depend on the state of the atmosphere.”
According to NASA scientists: “The exact color that the moon appears depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the atmosphere. If there are extra particles in the atmosphere, from say a recent volcanic eruption, the moon will appear a darker shade of red.”
Illustration photo: AFP
Why does the moon turn red in a Blood Moon eclipse?
The red moon is possible because while the moon is in total shadow, some light from the sun passes through Earth's atmosphere and is bent toward the moon.
While other colors in the spectrum are blocked and scattered by the Earth's atmosphere, red light tends to make it through easier. 
What time will you be able to see it?
In mainland France, the eclipse will be visible from 10 pm – 10.30 pm and it is expected to last until nearly 12.30 am. 
“We have to wait for the moon to rise a little above the horizon to be able to see it, with the beginning of the eclipse taking place before the moon rises,” Descamps said, adding that in French territories such as Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean the whole of the eclipse will be visible from beginning to end. 
In mainland France, however, “we will only see the end”. 
And remember to try and catch the event as soon as you can because the moon will only be in a state of total eclipse until 11.15 pm when it will start to emerge and regain its normal appearance. 
Those in the south of the country will be better placed to see the blood moon than those in Paris or the north. 
“The beginning of the phase of total eclipse will be visible only in the east of a diagonal line that links Bordeaux, Paris and Lille”, said the site Sciences et Avenir.
So if you are Brittany or Normandy don't get your hopes up. Of course everything depends on the weather (see below).
Illustration photo: AFP
How to get the best view 
It's important to have a clear view of the horizon towards the south east, astronomers told the French press. 
That means that if you're in Paris your best chance of seeing the phenomenon is to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower or Tour Montparnasse while those outside of the capital would benefit from leaving areas with forests or hills
But don't worry, even if you don't manage to find a perfect spot, you'll still be able to get a good view of the red moon as it rises in the sky. 
If you're something of an astronomy buff it's probably worth investigating one of the 130 astronomy clubs in France which will be holding events for the public in honour of the occasion. 
So, what is the weather forecast?
Naturally a lack of cloud will help with seeing the eclipse at its best so we've taken a look at the weather forecast. 
Unfortunately for those in the north of the country storms are predicted while the east and most of the south  and south-east is looking clear. This was the latest weather forecast on Friday morning.
Should I protect my eyes?
There's no need to take precautions when it comes to looking at the eclipse, scientists have said. In fact, it will be easier to look at than a normal full moon because it won't be as bright due to the lack of sunlight. 
And you don't have to worry about having a telescope to get a good view, with astronomers saying that there will be a very good view without the need for special equipment.