Essex prepares for stunning Perseid meteor showers on Wednesday night

Meteor showers are set for Essex.

Meteor showers are set for Essex. - Credit: AP

Uttlesford is bracing itself for a spectacular display of Perseid meteors this week.

When the meteors reach their peak on a moonless Wednesday night they will be accompanied by the International Space Station outshining the brightest stars.

The Perseid meteors make appearance each year as the Earth passes through debris shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle.

Exceptionally dark skies will provide the best possible conditions for viewing the shooting stars this week due to an invisible “new moon”.

The shower is active from around July 17 to August 24 but peaks between 11pm on Wednesday (August 12) and Thursday morning.

During this period as many as 100 meteors or more may be seen every hour.

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “The thing about shooting stars is they’re a wonderful free spectacle we can all enjoy, assuming clear skies.

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“Its best to watch them from the countryside but even in town, these meteors are bright enough for a few to be visible.

“The moon is out of the way which makes a lot of difference because the sky will be much darker all night. For every bright shooting star you see there are always fainter ones, and this will make it easier to see the fainter meteors and ring up the numbers.

“The Perseids are usually fairly bright. Also, they tend to leave a trail, or train, behind them. You can see the train hanging there glowing in the sky for a few seconds - sometimes for several minutes - after the meteor has gone.”

He urged people to keep a special eye out for the International Space Station, which an be seen passing over the UK at around 10.30pm on Wednesday.

“It will move from the west below the bright star Arcturus and then move towards the south, fading out as it passes into the Earth’s shadow at 10.32pm,” said Mr Scagell. “And it will be the brightest thing in the sky, apart from aircraft. It’ll be in mid sky from southern England and quite low in the sky from northern Scotland but still visible.”

Meteors are the result of particles as small as a grain of sand entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed and burning up.

They can appear anywhere but seem to emerge from a single point, or “radiant”. The Perseid’s radiant is in the north-east constellation of Perseus.

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