200 meteors an hour to light up skies; catch the show

THE best meteor shower in a decade will light up the skies this weekend, with parts of the display featuring debris from a comet that passed us 1000 years ago.

The annual Perseid meteor shower typically peaks in August each year, with late August 12 to early August 13 being the prime times for catching the best of the display.

This year however, experts say a special "outburst" means viewers will get more than the usual showing, with the best places experiencing up to 200 meteors per hour.

Watchers in Queensland will not have as good a display as those in the northern hemisphere, but Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Queensland, Michael Drinkwater, says just some warm clothes and patience will be rewarded.

"This is the one time when you don't want binoculars or anything other than the naked eye as they are arriving over a reasonably large area of the sky.

"Since you need to be patient, you want to have comfortable chair and warm clothing."

Eungella National Park is a recommended spot for residents of Mackay, however a livestream is also being made available at live.slooh.com.

The Perseids occur each year when Earth's rotation intersects with the trail of the Comet Swif-Tuttle.

Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, told EarthSky the reason for this year's extra showing is because as comets deposit particles when they go around the sun, "over time, the gravitational influence of Jupiter and other giant planets (but mainly Jupiter) changes the particle orbits, and as a result, their close approach distances to Earth will vary.

"This year Jupiter's influence has moved the 1079, 1479, and 1862 [meteor] streams closer to Earth, so all forecasters are projecting a Perseid outburst with double normal rates."

Mackay and SE Qld Storms & Astro's Mike Manning posted on the Daily Mercury Facebook page suggesting specific times to watch. He wrote: "...the moon is really going to play havoc with the amount we will see. It will be around 70% illuminated and won't set until 1.30am Saturday morning (75% Sunday morning with a set time of 2.30am) - so if you're keen the best time to see them will be after 1:30am Saturday and after 2:30am Sunday. Being west away from the light pollution will help also."

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