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Star gazers in India are in for a treat as the annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on the night of August 12 through the morning of August 13.

“The best time to view Perseids Meteor Shower, the brightest constellation shower, from India on August 12 and 13 is from midnight to dawn,” Space India, the Delhi-based Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators, said in a statement on Saturday.

“The shower is visible pan India in the sky towards north, although clouds and bad weather conditions are likely to effect the visibility at a few places,” the statement added.

Some media reports said that this year’s Perseid show is the “brightest shower in recorded human history,” a speculation denied by Bill Cooke, lead of Meteoroid Environment Office, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

“We wish this were true… but no such thing is going to happen,” Cooke said in his blogpost.

The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years.

Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris. This debris field consists of bits of ice and dust — most over 1,000 years old — and burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year.

The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities will be across the northern hemisphere.

It is visible to the naked eye, and there is no need for binoculars and telescopes as it appears for a fraction of seconds as shooting stars and can get as high as 100 meteors per hour.

The best Perseid performance occurred back in 1993, when the peak Perseid rate topped 300 meteors per hour. In 2016, there was an outburst of just over 200 meteors per hour.

However, “this year, we are expecting enhanced rates of about 150 per hour or so, but the increased number will be cancelled out by the bright Moon, the light of which will wash out the fainter Perseids,” Cooke noted.

The best opportunity to see the Perseid meteor shower is during the dark, pre-dawn hours of August 13.

The Perseids streak across the sky from many directions. For optimal viewing, find an open skyline, where you can view the horizon without obstructions, such as buildings or trees. Try to view the Perseids as far away from artificial lights as possible.

The darker the sky, the better viewing experience you can have. Lie on the ground and look straight up.

“Remember, your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so allow plenty of time for your eyes to adjust,” Cooke said.

First Published | 12 August 2017 10:05 PM
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