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2014 Perseids

The Perseids remain a favourite with most observers.

Although they are out-performed by December's Geminids in terms of observed meteor rates, the Perseids have the advantage of occurring at a time of year when the nights are not too cool and at a time when many people take their summer breaks.

Moonlight will be a significant problem for observers of the 2014 Perseids. Observations of the early Perseids in late July and the early days of August will face minimal moonlight issues - New Moon occurs on July 26 - but moonlight will start to become a problem after the Moon reaches First Quarter on Aug 4.

Full Moon occurs on Aug 10, with the Moon near the Aquarius/Capricornus border.

By the night of Perseid maximum (Aug 12-13), the 92% illuminated Moon will be on the Aquarius/Pisces border (closer to the Perseid radiant) and will still be rising before the end of evening twilight in the UK.

All is not lost however. The Perseids are rich in bright meteors and so many Perseids will still be seen. In addition, you can minimise the effect of the moonlight by observing with your back to the Moon - possibly  viewing the Cassiopeia/Cepheus/Ursa Minor area. If possible, keep the Moon hidden behind trees or a nearby building.

Perseid maximum is actually predicted for Aug 13d00h UT and so the best observed rates are likely to be seen late in the night of Aug 12-13. However good rates are also likely during the nights of Aug 10-11, 11-12 and 13-14, so don't just focus on the night of Aug 12-13 (and risk it being clouded out).

The Perseid radiant is circumpolar from the UK, so you should start to see some Perseids as soon as it gets dark. The best observed rates are likely to occur in late in the night when the radiant is higher in the sky.

Few Perseids will be seen if you look directly at the shower radiant (their paths will be too short to easily see against the star background). For the best observed rates, look at any area of sky around 20-30 degrees from the radiant and at an altitude of around 50 degrees (but obviously tailor this to take into account local factors such as sky obstructions and light pollution ... and of course the Moon)

Being rich in bright meteors makes the Perseid shower a good target for imaging. The shower is also good for trained meteors, with around a third leaving persistent trains.

Care should be taken to identify the correct location for the Perseid radiant (see the chart below) before observing, as this changes significantly between late July and the peak.