Perseid meteor shower 2010: Nasa says stargazers to enjoy dazzling space show

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They say it is called the Perseids because they appear to stream in from the direction of the constellation of Perseus but in fact can appear in any part of the sky.

Nasa experts say the shower, which could a meteor every minute at its peak, is one of the most reliable for astronomers to view.

But this year will be even more spectacular because a new Moon this week means there will be no overpowering moonlight to spoil the show.

This also means star watchers with clear skies can look forward to viewing many of the bright meteor streaks as they burn up in the upper atmosphere after hitting earth at more than 140,000mph.

Scientists say the meteor shower will peak between Wednesday and Saturday with amateur astronomers being able to see up to 100 meteors an hour alone on Thursday night.

The highest rates are likely to be seen in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Earth has already entered the outer regions of the stream of meteoroids, left by a comet called Swift-Tuttle with some observers already reporting sightings.

The radiant, from which the meteors appear to stream, is low in the sky when darkness falls but climbs steadily through the night.

“It promises to be one of the best displays of the year,” a Nasa spokesman said.

“If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a peak display of at least 80 meteors per hour.

“A waxing crescent moon will set before the shower becomes active, setting a perfect stage for meteor watching.”

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the UK’s Society for Popular Astronomy, said that near perfect viewing conditions will create a spectacular show.

“Warm summer nights make the Perseids great fun to watch out for,” he said.

“Make yourself comfortable in a deckchair under a clear sky, away from the street lights, and you should soon see a few streaking across the sky.”

Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, told NBC News: “The whole shower, we think, is about 160,000 years old.

“The bulk of the shower you see is 5,000 years old.”

People will not be subjected to any harm because the meteors are only the size of grains of sand and are completely vaporised, scientists say.

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