UK & World News

  • 8 August 2014, 16:20

Huge Supermoon To Accompany Meteor Shower

A huge "supermoon" will accompany this year's Perseid meteor shower, in one of the most dramatic astronomical events of the year.

More than 100 meteors an hour speed by during the annual display, which takes place on the second week of August.

The shower is due to reach its peak on Tuesday, but this year the display has a shining rival - the Moon.

On Sunday the Moon will become full as it reaches the point in its orbit that is closest to the Earth, known as perigee.

It will appear up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons during the year.

It could mean that the meteor shower does not stand out as much as it would on a typical year.

Dr Bill Cooke from Nasa's Meteoroid Environment Office said: "Lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors, and sharply reduces counts."

But he said that the Perseids were "rich in fireballs as bright as Jupiter or Venus" that would remain visible despite the Moon's glare.

Tony Markham, director of the Society for Popular Astronomy's meteor section, said skywatchers should stay optimistic.

"The Perseids are rich in bright meteors and so many Perseids will still be seen despite the moonlit sky background," he said.

"If possible, keep the Moon hidden behind trees or a nearby building."

The best time to see the meteors is between Saturday and Wednesday, with activity peaking on Tuesday.

At perigee, the Moon is around 31,000 miles closer than when it is furthest away from the Earth.

Supermoons occur every 13 months and 18 days, but are not always noticed because of clouds or poor weather.

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