Earth-bound stargazers may only just miss seeing the Leonids meteor shower on Wednesday but that’s all about to change!
Good weather forecasts and a moderately bright moonlight – and some impressive features in the sky – could mean a huge outburst of ‘space ‘shower’ activity this summer.
Even dark skies, or extreme presence (seven stars) would be needed to see decent viewing.
If you miss the peak, you’re in luck – the Leonids return in five weeks on 14 July – but, you need to be in place by 03:00 BST on that date too.
Tuesday’s shower is expected to be easily seeable on a dark, clear and quiet night.
Fireballs, meteors that leave their tails, will rise about 10pm to 2am BST, around the same time as the Moon sets.
There’s a low chance of glimpsing any meteors at all before they pass the Moon’s bright glare – about 20 per hour.
Since the Moon is at full phase that times also point to dark skies that will allow you to make some careful observations.
A full moon isn’t always a bad thing – it actually acts as a deflector – by drawing matter from our Sun, stopping it heating up further.
Even in places where there is not the right weather, decent views will be available. You will need a decent position, a clear, dark sky and a very good pair of binoculars to really make the most of it.
The first shower of the season – called the Sturgeon Meteor Shower in the US – is due to peak at 02:01 BST on 18 June. The Green Spot could be visible through a pair of binoculars, even when the Moon sets.
Even in countries where there is bad weather, or poor binoculars, looking down at the Moon’s crescent effect can give you an eyeful of potential meteors.
I’m going to be in the Polar Circle on Wednesday but, as the Leonids won’t be one of my targets, I’ll be checking the display at sites in the Lower UK.