This year, conditions are especially congenial for observers, as the August nights are warm and cloudless, and observations will not be hindered by the moon, which only appears briefly in the sky for a few minutes before sunrise.
“What seems to us to be a shooting star is in fact just a speck of dust, often no larger than a grain of sand,” noted Karol Wójcicki from Warsaw's Copernicus Science Centre, which is organising a star-gazing event tonight for the public between 9:00 pm and 2:00 am.
“It falls into the Earth's atmosphere and owing to friction it heats up, burns, and we see traces of this process in the sky as a transient, fast-moving flash.”
The meteors appear to cascade from the constellation of Perseus, hence the name of Perseids. They are also sometimes called 'the tears of St. Lawrence', since August 10 is the day of his martyrdom.
Meteor showers take place when the Earth, on its orbital path through space, collides with comet or asteriod particles.
Every year in July and August, our planet meets with material left behind by the comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle. The Perseid meteor shower will continue until 24 August, but tonight observers will be able to see the most activity.
Although group observations are taking place in Warsaw and at Gdańsk's Hevelianum Centre, the remoter the location the better.
“Meteor activity is not so visible in cities, because they disappear in the glow of the city, but the brightest, most attractive, certainly are visible,” Wojcicki commented.
“You can go to the park, sit in the square and the square, ot go up on to a roof or balcony and patiently stare at the sky,” he added. (nh/rk)