The Perseid meteor shower is happening this August, where stargazers may see up to 100 meteors an hour – here’s a guide to some of the best places to watch it in south London.
This summer has been a good one for astronomical events. In July, we covered the fascinating blood moon eclipse and where to watch it, this August, it’s all about the Perseid meteor shower.
What is the Perseid meteor shower?
The meteor shower is a brilliant spectacle that can light up the night sky, but not many people are aware of what it actually is. According to Dr Gregory Brown, astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich:
‘The Perseid meteor shower is one of the more impressive showers over the course of the year. Produced by the trail of material left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle, this shower peaks with a rate up to 100 meteors per hour.’
Unlike other meteor showers, that are often less spectacular and easier to miss, Perseid showers are generally more visible as they brighter, and last for longer.
If you are one of the many people that has spent hours sat outside in the dark waiting for something special to appear in the sky, then fear not, as the Perseid showers are among the most reliable showers year after year.
When is it happening?
People can sometimes get confused between different astronomical events and can end up either missing them, or waiting for ages for something that isn’t due to happen…
Thankfully, Dr Brown is able to provide an accurate window of the best time to watch the Perseid meteor shower:
‘The best time to see them will be the on the night of the 12th/13th August, although the shower itself will last much of this month albeit with a lower rate.’
Good news, then, for anybody who wants to witness the awesome spectacle but can’t watch it on the 12th or 13th of August – as long as you keep your eyes peeled for the duration of the month, you should be in luck.
Will I be able to see it?
All too often, people will read up on an astronomical event, get all the correct information, and then miss the entire thing due to poor conditions.
This year, things should be slightly different as the weather has been a lot hotter and the sky clearer of late. Additionally, there are other factors that should improve the visibility of the showers. According to Dr Brown:
‘This year in particular, the peak of the shower coincides with the new moon phase, meaning there will be very little light from the Moon interfering with your view.’
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see every meteor shower, Dr Brown states that some ‘will be below the horizon, and others will likely be covered up by the weather or drowned out by city lights’, but adds that ‘you still have a great chance to see a large number of meteors.’
How can I see it?
There are many great places to watch the Perseid meteor shower, though some are obviously better than others.
“Try to find a spot away from city lights and fill your view with as much of the sky as possible; lying down or using a deckchair is a fantastic way to look up at the sky comfortably,” Dr Brown advises.
“Then simply wait and with some luck you might just see a fireball meteor, a streak of light so bright it rivals the bright planet Venus.”
Where can I see it?
Thankfully, we’re being blessed with wonderfully clear skies at the moment, meaning that you don’t have to be anywhere too rural to get a good view of the sky. With that said, here are our recommendations.
Renowned for its famous observatory, Greenwich Park is, without a doubt, a great place to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The beautiful scenery and naturally higher ground only add to the fantastic view.
Unlike many other stargazing spots, Greenwich Park provides an almost completely panoramic view of the skies, meaning that you are far more likely to catch a glimpse of the showers, or even a fireball.
Greenwich Royal Observatory, may be taking pictures with the brand new Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope (AMAT), so keep your eyes peeled after the event as well for some amazing photography.
Perennially popular amongst stargazers, the park is likely to be busy so we recommend you head down early to get a good spot, although the best time to see the showers is just after midnight, so make sure you pack a picnic and find somewhere comfortable to sit.
Morden Hall Park
Situated a short walk from Morden underground station, Morden Hall Park offers great views of astronomical events, it’s even been described as one of the best places for stargazing in London and the South East by the National Trust.
If you’re keen to get an amazing view of the Perseid meteor shower in London then Morden Hall Park is about as good as it gets. With plenty of open space to sit, we recommend making an evening of it and heading down with friends and family for this truly amazing spectacle.
Grove Park Nature Reserve
Another picturesque spot to sit and gaze at the moon, Grove Park Nature Reserve in Lewisham offers space in abundance, and fantastic views.
Far enough out of London to ensure that your view won’t be hindered by the glare of city lights, the nature reserve is still close enough to travel to with ease.
A strong part of the local community, you should be in good company if you want to make an evening of it. Great for a picnic and being at one with nature, Grove Park Nature Reserve is definitely worth checking out.
One of the most fantastic things about astronomy is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to catch a glimpse wherever you are – so if you can’t make it to any of these spots, then don’t worry. As long as you steer clear of skyscrapers and overly polluted areas in the inner-city, you should be free to witness and enjoy one of the most impressive astronomy events of the century.