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Where will you be between midnight and 4am on August 13? If you plan to be tucked up in bed with the curtains drawn, think again, because you might be missing out on a truly cosmic experience – a rare unspoilt view of a spectacular meteor shower. There is something magical about catching sight of a shooting star as it streaks across the night sky. So imagine the thrill of looking up to see dozens – maybe hundreds – of shooting stars as they rain down from the darkness. That’s what will happen on the second weekend of August, when the Perseid meteor shower hits earth. At the height of the action, a shooting star will light up the night sky every few seconds. This astonishing natural firework display occurs as the earth passes through a trail of debris left by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last swung into our solar system in 1992. Tiny grains of dust and ice will collide with the earth’s atmosphere at speeds of up to 30 miles per second, each creating an arc of incandescent light. The phenomenon occurs every year, but 2007 will be special because the arrival of the Perseids will coincide with a new moon. Usually, moonlight makes it difficult for the human eye to pick out most of the individual meteors, but against a velvety-black sky the display will be mind-blowing. To view the Perseids, you don’t need any special equipment or expertise, but you do need to get as far as possible from the light pollution that blights much of modern Britain. With the meteors visible across large parts of the northern hemisphere, it’s worth plotting your whereabouts: countryside or beach; the Highlands of Scotland or the Greek islands? Dr Francisco Diego, an astronomer at University College London, suggests heading south for longer nights and increased chances of cloudless skies. “Almost anywhere in the Mediterranean should be ideal, as long as you are away from artificial light,” he says. “Morocco and Tunisia would also be wonderful.” Diego will be in the Canaries to accompany a group of 20 astro-tourists, who will spend three nights on the island of La Palma, viewing the meteors from the rim of an extinct volcano, the site of one of the world’s most important observatories. The trip is being organised by the tour operator Explore, which says it is taking bookings from amateur astronomers and regular travellers looking for a holiday with a difference. Diego suggested La Palma for the six-night trip because of the island’s reliable climate and almost complete lack of light pollution. “We’ll be staying at sea level, but viewing from the observatory at Roque de los Muchachos, which is on the rim of the crater at 2,400 metres. It’s an incredibly dramatic location, literally above the clouds. The altitude is a key factor because most of the dust and smoke that normally obscures our view of the night sky is in the lower atmosphere. We’ll be above that.” Although La Palma promises peerless views of the Perseids, it should also be possible to see them from locations across the UK and Ireland. Rob Edwards, head of science education at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, says anyone with a “reasonably clear sky” should get a view. “Just go outside with a deckchair, blankets and a flask of coffee. Avoid looking at any artificial lights. It will take your eyes anywhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes to adapt fully to the dark. “It’s not essential to go somewhere remote. I expect to see meteors from my back garden in west London.” The view will improve as the night progresses and the earth turns, pointing us in the direction of the oncoming meteors. “It’s like driving your car into a rain shower,” explains Diego. “You get more raindrops on the front windscreen than on the back window.” Because of this, the best time to see the shower will be between midnight and dawn. Hence the need for caffeine. Clear, dark skies should also provide sensational views of the galaxy beyond. “If you get well away from city lights, you ought to be able to see the Milky Way clearly – a great cloud of 300 billion stars,” says Edwards. “It’s well worth taking a pair of binoculars and just enjoying the view.” With a telescope you may also be able to study Venus, Jupiter and Saturn. WHERE TO SEE THE SHOWAstronomical events are being planned across the country over the four days of galactic activity. The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Alderley Edge (01477 571339, www.jb.man.ac.uk), will host a Perseid Meteor Shower Party on August 11. Admission by ticket only: adults £6, children £5. In Herstmonceux, East Sussex, the Observatory Science Centre (01323 832731, www.the-observatory.org ) is planning a Perseid Shooting Star Evening on August 11, from 7pm to 10pm, with a guest speaker, barbecue and a chance to use the centre’s telescopes. Tickets £19.50. How to catch the falling starsTHE PERSEIDS will be visible on clear nights from about August 10 to August 15, peaking on August 13. For the best views, avoid smog, cloud and light pollution. The second half of the night, between midnight and dawn, should provide the best of the action, with two or three meteors visible every minute. The meteors will appear to radiate from a single point in the sky – the constellation of Perseus – well above the horizon, towards the northeast. Take a deckchair, hot drinks and warm clothes. Use binoculars for stargazing, but the naked eye to scan for meteors. And don’t fall asleep. Viewing conditions won’t be this good again until 2015.
Great Perseids 07.11.2007 + Play Audio | + Download Audio | + Email to a friend | + Join mailing list July 11, 2007: Got a calendar? Circle this date: Sunday, August 12th. Next to the circle write "all night" and "Meteors!" Attach the above to your refrigerator in plain view so you won't miss the 2007 Perseid meteor shower."It's going to be a great show," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. "The Moon is new on August 12th--which means no moonlight, dark skies and plenty of meteors." How many? Cooke estimates one or two Perseids per minute at the shower's peak.Above: A Perseid fireball photographed August 12, 2006, by Pierre Martin of Arnprior, Ontario, Canada. [Larger image]The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is nowhere near Earth, the comet's tail does intersect Earth's orbit. We glide through it every year in August. Tiny bits of comet dust hit Earth's atmosphere traveling 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light--a meteor--when it disintegrates. Because Swift-Tuttle's meteors fly out of the constellation Perseus, they are called "Perseids."Note: In the narrative that follows, all times are local. For instance, 9:00 pm means 9:00 pm in your time zone, where you live. Sign up for EXPRESS SCIENCE NEWS delivery The show begins between 9:00 and 10:00 pm on Sunday, August 12th, when Perseus rises in the northeast. This is the time to look for Perseid Earthgrazers--meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping the surface of a pond."Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors," says Cooke. He cautions that an hour of watching may net only a few of these--"at most"--but seeing even one makes the long night worthwhile.As the night unfolds, Perseus climbs higher and the meteor rate will increase many-fold. "By 2 am on Monday morning, August 13th, dozens of Perseids may be flitting across the sky every hour." The crescendo comes before dawn when rates could exceed a meteor a minute.For maximum effect, Cooke advises, "get away from city lights." The brightest Perseids can be seen from cities, he allows, but the greater flurry of faint, delicate meteors is visible only from the countryside. Scouts, this is a good time to go camping.Above: The eastern sky, viewed during the hours before sunrise on Monday, Aug. 13, 2007. And there's a bonus: Mars. In the constellation Taurus, just below Perseus, Mars shines like a bright red star. Many of the Perseids you see on August 12th and 13th will flit right past it. Instead of following the meteor, you may find you have a hard time taking your eyes off Mars. There's something bewitching about it, maybe the red color or perhaps the fact that it doesn't twinkle like a true star. You stare at Mars and it stares right back.Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter in December 2007. NASA is taking advantage by launching a new mission to Mars--the Phoenix Lander. Phoenix will touch down on an arctic plain where it can dig into the ground and investigate layers of soil and ice, searching for, among other things, a habitable zone for primitive microbes. The launch window opens on August 3rd, so by the time the Perseids arrive Phoenix may be hurtling toward the Red Planet. Landing: late Spring 2008.It's something to think about at four in the morning, with Mars rising in the east, meteors flitting across the sky, and a summer breeze rustling the legs of your pajamas. Maybe you should go circle your calendar again.
I tried to resist posting this reply, but, being the pedant I am, I can't hold it back any longer.
Quote from: DoctorBeaver on 12/08/2007 18:16:14I tried to resist posting this reply, but, being the pedant I am, I can't hold it back any longer.Doc's other websitehttp://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/examples_1.htm
Too damned right! Abuse of the apostrophe is a subject close to my heart.
Quote from: DoctorBeaver on 12/08/2007 18:24:42Too damned right! Abuse of the apostrophe is a subject close to my heart.Thats' what i thought [:I]
' Apostrophe's ' have rights' too ,,,,''''
did you just email the show, Doc?
Yes its the same for everyone just look up in a NE DIRECTION.Above and to the left of mars
I hope it is still happening tonight by the time it gets dark here!Won't even get dark here for another four hours!
Quote from: Karen W. on 13/08/2007 02:23:04I hope it is still happening tonight by the time it gets dark here!Won't even get dark here for another four hours!Try closing your eyes !!
There's one !! did you see it ?...did ya ?Ok..it's more like a pulsar !! 
Quote from: neilep on 13/08/2007 02:22:21There's one !! did you see it ?...did ya ?Ok..it's more like a pulsar !! i would say thats more like the big bang
There i was, midnight on the roof. Binoculars, camera, jumper and 20 fags...what do i see? Cloud, not even the moon!!! [!]
Quote from: paul.fr on 13/08/2007 09:59:40There i was, midnight on the roof. Binoculars, camera, jumper and 20 fags...what do i see? Cloud, not even the moon!!! [!]It might have been less cloudy if you weren't smoking !! 
I tried to resist posting this reply, but, being the pedant I am, I can't hold it back any longer.What we are watching are, hopefully, meteors. Meteorites are meteors that fall to Earth & they can give you a nasty headache.