Science & Environment

Perseid meteors: Skywatchers enjoy shower peak

Perseid shower over Stonehenge
Image caption The Perseid meteor shower could be seen streaking across the sky over Stonehenge in Wiltshire
A meteor is seen during the Perseids meteor shower over the one of the stones of the Avebury"s Neolithic henge monument in Wiltshire
Image caption Elsewhere in the county, skywatchers also saw the meteor shower pass over the stones at Avebury's Neolithic henge monument.
Perseid meteor streaks across the sky past the light trail of an aircraft over the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Holmes Chapel
Image caption Further north, it was also spotted above the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire
A meteor is seen during the Perseids meteor shower over the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Image caption The annual display is a result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle
Residents of Ripley, Surrey camp out to observe at the meteor
Image caption Residents in Ripley, Surrey wrapped up warm and camped out in their garden to observe the shower
Meteor in Woking, Surrey
Image caption Lisa Harding took 50 photos over two hours from her conservatory in Woking, Surrey to get this effect

Skygazers have seen the high point of the annual Perseid meteor shower.

The shower, which reached its peak on Monday night, occurs when the Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet.

As this cometary "grit" strikes the atmosphere, it burns up, creating spectacular streaks of light across the night sky.

The meteors appear to come from a point called a "radiant" in the Constellation Perseus - hence the name Perseid.

The tiny fragments of ice and dust - they range in size from a grain of sand to around as big as a pea - hit the Earth's atmosphere at some 60km/s (134,000 mph).

As many as 60-100 streaks an hour may be visible at the height of the display.

Skywatchers were advised to lie on a blanket or a reclining chair to get the best view.

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Media captionThis picture of a Perseid meteor was captured in Newhaven, East Sussex

'Fabulous'

Comet Swift-Tuttle came relatively close to Earth in 1992, which made for an especially dramatic show. Since then, the display has calmed down.

The comet is not due to come as close to the Earth again until the middle of the next decade.

Laura, from Wiltshire, told BBC Radio 5 live that she had seen two of the meteors.

"It's literally like a streak of lightning but without the thunder that follows it. It's a very quick flash, and if you're not looking directly at it it's like you've got something going on in the corner of your eye," she said.

"But one I saw, I was looking directly at it. It was fabulous. Really bright. Streaked right across the sky."

Astronomer and science writer Dr David Whitehouse said the spectacle was breathtaking.

"The light from a shooting star is like no other type of light in the sky," he told BBC News. "It's not starlight, it's not moonlight, it's not sunlight.

"It has a ghostly sliver and a sleeting brilliance all of its own."

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