Skies above Essex countryside offer views of Perseids meteor shower

A STUNNING show of shooting stars, know as the Perseids meteor shower, is expected to be on display tonight (Thursday August 12) – and the dark skies above the Essex countryside could be one of the best places to see it.

With the moon currently in its new phase, clear skies this week could mean that it is the best year since 2007 to catch the meteor shower.

The National Trust has produced a handy online guide to star gazing and listed some of its best dark skies locations to catch a glimpse of this special and natural light show.

For the best views, star gazers are advised to escape the city lights and head out to the big open and dark skies of the countryside where the stars and meteors will be at their brightest.

Head of access and recreation at the National Trust, Jo Burgon, said: “Seeing the stars in their full splendour, shining bright in the sky above you, is one of the unofficial wonders of the natural world.


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“The intrusive glow of street lighting or a bright moon can be detrimental to a good meteor experience.

“But with a good weather forecast, this year’s Perseids display could be a cracker, and not one to be missed.”

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One of the locations highlighted in the National Trust guide includes the wild landscape of Wicken Fen – the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve offers dark skies and a wealth of nocturnal wildlife to listen out for.

Another great location is the beautiful Flatford and Dedham Vale on the Essex/Suffolk border, made famous by the artist John Constable.

“Its worth spending the time to find the perfect spot to gaze up at the stars; as once you’re there looking into the night sky it will take your breath away,” said Jo Burgon.

“And the best thing is that it won’t cost you a penny and this star time will always stay with you as one of those experiences that money can’t buy.”

August is not the only time for star gazing; its great all year round and the Trust website offers a basic introduction to astronomy, including monthly constellation guides, useful facts about the universe and where to find local astronomy groups and events.

Emily Winterburn, author of The Stargazer’s Guide, said: “The Perseids are a great meteor shower to watch. The nights aren’t too cold and for once, thanks to the moon, the summer nights are dark enough to make even the dimmer meteors visible to the naked eye.”

So, check out your local weather forecast, for the best skies to see the stars at www.bbc.co.uk/weather or www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/

More information can be found at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/darkskies

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