Perseid meteor shower peaks on 12th / 13th August

A meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris trail left by a passing comet. In the case of the Perseid meteor shower, the culprit is an object called Swift-Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1862 and is known to orbit the Sun once every 130 years. Meteor showers provide us with a better chance of seeing a meteor or 'shooting star' - these are small pieces of rock or dust that enter and burn up in the atmosphere, creating bright firey trails across the night sky.

Perseus constellation
Perseus viewed from Liverpool - 11pm on 12/08/20
Credit: Generated using the free software Stellarium

The meteors from the Perseid shower will start close to a point known as the radiant (where it looks like the meteors are raining straight down), which is in the constellation of Perseus - hence the name of the meteor shower. The number of meteors will peak around the 12th-13th August, when we pass through the centre of the comet trail. During this period we can expect to see around 60 meteors per hour, which is up from the usual 5 or 6 per hour we can expect on a typical night.


During the night of the 12th-13th August we also have to contend with a waning crescent Moon, however, if we aim to observe before it rises shortly after midnight, we should still get around 3 hours of reasonably dark skies following the sunset at around 9pm - weather permitting of course. Our advice would be to head out at around 11pm with some warm clothing, a hot drink and a comfy chair, and keep your eyes looking in the direction of Perseus, which can be found above the North-Eastern horizon (see the image above). Be aware that the meteors will only last a fraction of a second, so you have to concentrate .... blink and you'll miss them.