The Local Germany (12 August 2015)
As Germany gears up to welcome in the 2015 Perseid meteor shower, The Local finds out how we can best experience one of the calendar’s most stunning astronomical events.
Stargazers, evening strollers and beer garden visitors across Europe are in for a treat this week – as the annual Perseid meteor shower makes its way across the northern hemisphere.
The meteor shower is set to grace Europe’s skies throughout the first half of August, and has been at its peak from Monday to Thursday this week – but the real show-stopper happens on Wednesday night (August 12th).
The best time to view the shower should be between 10pm on Wednesday and 4am on Thursday morning, Berlin Planetarium advises.
The science of meteors
The meteors themselves are miniscule dart particles, fragments of the comet Swift-Tuttle.
As the comet slowly disintegrates whilst orbiting the sun, it leaves behind this trailing debris of particles, each between a few millimetres and one centimetre in diameter.
Around mid-August every year, the Earth passes through this debris trail on its orbit of the sun.
As each dust particles enters the atmosphere – at around 60km per second –it creates a blazing trail of white-hot air.
The Planetarium estimates that at the shower’s peak time, viewers in the best locations could see up to 100 of these glowing meteors per hour.
How best to watch them
Monika Staesche, Scientific Manager at the Berlin Planetarium, has a few tips for getting the most out of the week’s after-dark shows.
The first of these is to try and get out into the countryside.
“The city lights are a big problem,” she told The Local. “So I normally suggest people get out of the city.”
The Perseid meteor shower is named after the constellation Perseus, from which it appears to radiate outwards.
However, those keen to catch a glimpse don’t need to have an expert knowledge of constellations: the shower can be spotted in any part of the night sky.
This means you should try and find somewhere with a nice view all around, Staesche advises – with no trees or mountains blocking out parts of the sky.
‘Wild on meteors’
With the recent mild nights and pleasant weather in Germany, people shouldn’t have to take too many extra precautions if they want to watch the show this week.
“Meteors are just glowing air!” she explained. “It’s not like looking at the sun through a telescope.”
Night-time insects could prove an irritation, though – with Staesche warning viewers to “watch out for the mosquitoes!” if they head out.
Interest in the annual Perseid shower has definitely grown over the years, she said – mainly thanks to social media sites such as Facebook spreading awareness of the event.
The Perseid meteor shower may just be a load of hot air, but it’s captured the attention of Europe.
“People are wild on meteors now!” Staesche said.