Tonight at Stonehenge will be best night in five years to view spectacular Perseids meteor shower

12 08 2010

Stonehenge Landscape in Wiltshire – Step back in time and discover the ancient skies of Salisbury Plain’s chalk downlands, home to the impressive prehistoric stone monument
It is also one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the heavens that you can view from your own back garden.

And now scientists say that star-gazers are in for a treat this week with clear skies expected to give fantastic views of the spectacular Perseids meteor shower.

Experts say that with the moon in its ‘new’ phase and clear skies this week could mean that it’s the best year since 2007 to catch the spectacular show.

The annual Perseids meteor shower ) at Friars Crag, Derwentwater, Keswick, Cumbria in 2008. Astronomers predict this year will be the best display yetThe annual Perseids meteor shower ) at Friars Crag, Derwentwater, Keswick, Cumbria in 2008. Astronomers predict this year will be the best display yet

The phenomenon, which happens each summer as the Earth’s orbit takes it through debris scattered by the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle is expected to peak on Thursday night.

Amateur astronomers were left disappointed last year after clouds ruined the expected view.

The Taurids are named after the constellation Taurus, because their paths can be traced from that area of sky.

On the night of the 12 August the new moon’s thin crescent will have set in the early evening, leaving a dark sky for the meteor shower, promising a stunning show of shooting stars.

For the best views, star gazers are advised to escape the city lights and head out to the big open and dark skies of the countryside where the stars and meteors will be at their brightest.

SEVEN BEST PLACES IN UK FOR SEEING THE PERSEIDS

Black Down in Sussex – Get closer to the stars on the highest point in the South Downs, just over a mile from the town of Haslemere

Teign Valley in Devon – Discover the stars at this Trust property within Dartmoor National Park and close to Castle Drogo

Penbryn Beach in Wales – Beautiful, unspoilt mile-long beach on the Ceredigion coast in west Wales, great for a bit of star gazing and a late night paddle

Stonehenge Landscape in Wiltshire – Step back in time and discover the ancient skies of Salisbury Plain’s chalk downlands, home to the impressive prehistoric stone monument

Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire – Close to historic Ely, the wild landscape of the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve offers dark skies and a wealth of nocturnal wildlife to listen out for

Mam Tor in Derbyshire – Escape the bright city lights of Sheffield and experience the peace and tranquillity of Mam Tor’s dark skies in the Peak District

Friar’s Crag in Cumbria – Surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the Lake District, Friar’s Crag in Keswick juts out into the spectacular lake of Derwentwater

The Met Office is predicting that the clearest skies on Thursday night are likely to be in southern and western parts of England and Wales.

Nasa scientists also claim that this ‘promises to be one of the best displays of the year.’

‘If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a peak display of at least 80 meteors per hour,’ they say.

Jo Burgon, Head of Access and Recreation at the National Trust, said: ‘Seeing the stars in  their full splendour, shining bright in the sky above you, is one of the unofficial wonders of the natural world. 

‘The intrusive glow of street lighting or a bright moon can be detrimental to a good meteor experience.

‘But with a good weather forecast, this year’s Perseids display could be a cracker, and not one to be missed.’

Some of the locations highlighted in the National Trust guide include the dramatic landscape around the world famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire and Mam Tor in the Peak District, high above Sheffield and only a short distance from the city of steel.

Jo Burgon, added: ‘Its worth spending the time to find the perfect spot to gaze up at the stars; as once you’re there looking into the night sky it will take your breath away.

‘And the best thing is that it won’t cost you a penny and this star time will always stay with you as one of those experiences that money can’t buy.

Emily Winterburn, author of The Stargazer’s Guide, said: ‘The Perseids are a great meteor shower to watch. 

‘The nights aren’t too cold and for once, thanks to the moon, the summer nights are dark enough to make even the dimmer meteors visible to the naked eye.’ 
As usualy Histouries UK Tours will be operating guided tours of Stonehenge and Avebury tonight, I joined them last year and it was awesome!

Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website


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