Look up to the skies. This evening, possibly thousands of shooting stars are expected to pass overhead. To see them best, escape the bright lights of the city and head to the countryside, free from light pollution and other distractions.
Known as the Perseid meteor show, the shooting stars can be observed all across the world. The sky will light up with meteors, with as many as 110 being visible per hour. Unfortunately, this year the shower coincides with a bright full moon, which means that many will not be visible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, the brightest of them, named bolides, will still be visible.
Meteor showers are caused by debris left in the wake of comets, which earth traverses on its path around the sun. Each year, these tiny grains of dust and rock pass through at such high speeds that they burn up, leaving a trail of light across the sky as they pass. Some even appear as fireballs, big meteors that shine as bright as Venus as they enter the atmosphere.
The Perseid meteor shower is caused by the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits around the sun every 133 years. There are a few chances of the comet being spotted this year though, as it was last seen in 1992 and won’t be seen again until 2125, astronomers have calculated.
To catch a glimpse of the meteors, it isn’t necessary to look in any specific direction, but simply to take in as large a patch of sky as possible.
“Look over the entire surface of the sky, you shouldn’t aim for a single point,” Dominique Gering, educational coordinator of the Eurospace Centre in Transinne, Wallonia told RTL Info. “With a deckchair even lying on the ground with a blanket, you have to look carefully because if you raise you heal all the time, in the end, you’ll give yourself a sore neck.”
For those who are not fortunate enough to be able to travel to an area with low levels of light pollution, impressive livestreams of the night sky can be watched on Youtube, where specialised cameras catch uninterrupted views of the meteors crossing above.
The Transinne Eurospace Centre will organise a series of free activities related to the meteor show today from 15:30. The centre is even providing professional equipment to help Belgian residents catch a glimpse of the shooting stars.