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Perseid meteor shower in Scotland

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  • Perseid meteor shower in Scotland

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    A brief trail of light shoots across the sky as a tiny piece of dust from space burns up in the atmosphere to create nature's own fireworks display.

    The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to reach its peak from Thursday night and the results could be stunning.
    Best known for being one of the most reliable showers in the meteor calendar, the "shooting stars" as they are affectionately referred to, usually feature some brighter meteors. You might even see the occasional fireball.

    This year's shower is expected to reach a maximum peak of activity on the night of August 11 into August 12.

    Astronomer David Warrington from the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory (SDSO) says you could observe them a couple of nights either side of this, with the potential to see about one meteor every minute during the peak.
    Why do Perseid meteor showers occur?

    The Perseids show up every year in August when Earth passes through trails of debris left behind by a comet.
    This year, we may be in for a closer encounter than usual with Nasa saying forecasters are predicting a "Perseid outburst", the first time this has happened since 2009.
    "The source of the dust is usually a comet, a small body of rock and ice which, when approaching the sun, leaves behind a trail of dust," David says.
    "The source of the dust for this particular meteor shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle - a comet discovered in 1862."

    Top tips for amateur stargazers

    No special equipment is needed to watch the spectacle but astronomer David does have some basic tips to make the most of the display, adding dark skies and clear weather will maximise the chances of seeing meteors.
    • Get comfortable, wrap up warm and find a comfy spot to sit down or lie back.
    • Have as wide angle a view of the night sky as possible and try not to look in any one particular direction.
    • Have some patience and let your eyes become adapted to the dark over 30 minutes to an hour.
    "You should start to see some Perseid meteors as soon as it gets dark, from about 10pm onwards," David says. "The later you stay up, the darker skies will be and this increases your chances of seeing meteors.
    "There are also occasional unpredictable burst of activity so don't worry if it's cloudy on the 11th into the 12th."

    What about the weather?

    Of course, this natural phenomenon does require a clear dark night with STV weather presenter Sean Batty saying stargazers will need to have an eagle eye on the developing forecast to give themselves the best shot of watching the meteor shower, with certain areas of Scotland in for a better chance than others.
    "On the night tipped to be the peak in the showers activity - the 11th into the 12th - Scotland will be in what's known as a warm sector," Sean says.
    "This is the area between a warm and cold front. The warm front will pass over on the Thursday afternoon, and leave us in the warm sector overnight as the cold front hangs west.
    "This is not good news as a warm sector usually keeps the skies mostly cloudy, and in this situation the thickest cloud will be in the north and west.
    "There is a possibility of some breaks developing on Thursday night to the lee of the hills around Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee, Fife and eastern Borders."
    Sean adds that things could improve if the cold front pushes south on Friday as is currently expected, with hints of a high pressure for the weekend also worth keeping an eye on.
    "The skies could be a bit clearer on the Friday night into Saturday, although the north and west will still hang on to large amounts of cloud," he says.
    "The Friday night is looking best again in the east of the country.
    He adds: "With pressure rising into the weekend, things may improve for stargazers.
    "Sunday night looks like the best chance for most of the country."