Skygazers are preparing for another dazzling sky show, as the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.
No special equipment is required to watch the shower, which occurs when Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle.
Astronomers are advised to lie on a blanket or a reclining chair to get the best view.
The National Trust has released online guides to seven top Perseid viewing sites in the UK.
As the cometary “grit” from Swift-Tuttle strikes our atmosphere, it burns up, often creating streaks of light across the sky.
The meteors appear to come from a point called a “radiant” in the constellation of Perseus – hence the name Perseid.
The late evening on 12 August through to the early hours of the 13 August is the best time to see the shower. In North America, the best time to watch is before dawn on Wednesday.
Astronomers say up to 100 meteors per hour are expected to streak across the sky during the shower’s peak.
But this year, light from the last quarter Moon will interfere significantly with the view.
Astronomers say binoculars might help with viewing the spectacle, but will also restrict the view to a small part of the sky.
The Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, but their tails all point back to the radiant in the constellation Perseus.
The UK’s National Trust has published online guides to seven top Perseid viewing sites, including coastal spots, nature reserves and national parks.
Jo Burgon, head of access and recreation at the Trust, said: “Light pollution from our towns and cities has increased so much in recent years, but head out to the countryside for the perfect place to explore the beauty of the night sky, away from the intrusive glow.”
Budding astronomers are being urged to take part in the first “Twitter Meteorwatch”. People from around the world have been live-tweeting images of the meteors, as well as pictures of the Moon, Jupiter and other celestial objects.
The “48-hour Twitter marathon” forms part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).
The rock and dust fragments which cause the shower were left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle when it last came near the Sun.
The comet orbits the Sun once every 130 years and last swept through the inner Solar System in 1992. — BBC News