How to watch spectacular Perseid meteor shower tonight

The Perseid meteor shower seen from the top of Almscliffe Crag in West Yorkshire (photo: Ian Hinchliffe/RossParry.co.uk)
The Perseid meteor shower seen from the top of Almscliffe Crag in West Yorkshire (photo: Ian Hinchliffe/RossParry.co.uk)

Stargazers are eagerly awaiting one of the most spectacular celestial displays - the Perseid meteor shower.

Tonight is expected to be the best chance to catch the annual phenomenon, with scores of shooting stars set to light up the night sky.

The natural fireworks show occurs when the earth passes through a cloud of cosmic debris shed by the comet Swift-Tuttle, causing particles of ice and dust to burn up as they speed through the atmosphere as meteors.

Robin Scagell, vice president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, said people could expect a 'decent display' this year, with up to one or two shooting stars visible per minute.

He said the best time to catch the show would be tonight or before dawn tomorrow morning.

"The Perseids can be very bright and often quite spectacular. Some meteor showers are slow, but we are moving into the Perseid stream so they are coming at us quite swiftly," he added.

"I think under good conditions you might see one or two a minute, probably more towards Sunday morning rather than Saturday."

No telescope, binoculars or any other equipment is required to spot the meteors, but it's worth checking the weather forecast beforehand as the clearer the skies the more you're likely to see.

The Met Office has issued the following advice to people hoping to watch the show unfold:

* Find a spot away from bright lights and let your eyes get used to the dark – this will take about 15 to 20 minutes

* Dress accordingly as August evenings can get quite chilly

* Lay on a reclining chair or lounger, or just put a blanket on the floor

* Use sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows, along with some food and drink, to make observing meteors as enjoyable as possible

* Start looking for shooting stars - you do not need to look in any particular direction as meteors appear randomly anywhere in the sky

* The most important thing is to be able to keep looking up filling your gaze with as much sky as possible, for as long as possible

We'd love to see your photos of the shower. Send them via Facebook or Twitter, or email news@thestar.co.uk.