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CYPRUS: Stargazers to gather in Kyperounda for best meteor shower of the year

10 August, 2018

Cypriots are advised to look skywards this weekend as the dazzling Perseid meteor shower will be at its peak, with the dedicated group of starwatchers gathering in Kyperounda, Troodos on Sunday evening.


Chrysanthos Fakas, head of the Astronomical Society of Cyprus, ASTREK, told CyBC radio that they will be setting up free telescopes for the public to view the phenomenon from the Ayios Arsenios church yard, when the meteor shower reaches its peak on Sunday evening.

“These are remnants of a comet from where the Earth orbits each year, making it more visible to the naked eye because in summer we have no clouds or overcast skies, and everybody is outdoors,” Fakas said.

He explained that the ‘meteor shower’, named after the Perseas star system, but not part of it, is pieces of meteorite falling and burning in our atmosphere at speeds of 50km per second, dragged by the force of gravity of our planet.

Fakas added that on Saturday, Venus and three other planets will also be visible to earthlings as it will be the closest to our planet since 2003, while a partial solar eclipse will be visible in North America and parts of northern Europe.

According to NASA the Perseids, which peak during mid-August, are considered the most impressive meteor shower of the year.

“The Perseids are one of the most plentiful showers (50-100 meteors seen per hour) and occur with warm summer night-time weather, allowing sky watchers to easily view them,” NASA’s official website reads on the phenomenon.

Despite the fact that this year’s density is expected to be smaller than other years the dark sky will allow a good observation of the phenomenon.

The phenomenon started on July 17 and is expected to last until 24 August, but Sunday will see the number of shooting stars streak across the sky multiply.

It will be best observed after midnight, in a north-eastern direction, with a naked eye and at a location which is away from city lights, either by the seaside or on the mountain.

“The pieces of space debris that interact with our atmosphere to create the Perseids originate from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Swift-Tuttle takes 133 years to orbit the sun once,” NASA said.

The Perseid meteor shower is always popular, but this year's peak — which occurs on the nights of August 11 to 12 and August 12 to 13 — will be particularly spectacular this year because the moon will be a thin crescent and set early, leaving a dark canvas for the meteors' bright streaks and fireballs.

According to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke, the shower should feature 60 to 70 meteors per hour at its peak this year — fewer than years when the shower is in outburst, when there can be up to 200 meteors per hour.

But nevertheless, the dark sky and balmy summer temperatures will make the Perseids a great meteor shower to watch.

"This is the meteor shower people view most because it occurs in the summer, when the nights are warm and comfortable, when you only have to worry about mosquitoes," Cooke told Space.com.

Fakas and ASTREK may be contacted on 22432219 or 99131405 or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Chrysanthos.Fakas/photos/a.1675702066050727.1073741851.1666515286969405/2137912019829727/?type=3&theater