Perseid meteor shower visible

Weather and sky conditions should be ideal for shooting stars

People in Prague will have the chance to a meteor shower on the night of Aug. 12–13, and forecasts so far call for clear skies.

The best viewing of the Perseid meteor shower should be from midnight to 4 am, and the moon will be almost in its new phase, so it will not be adding too much light to the sky.

The meteor shower can be seen with the naked eye or binoculars. Meteors are colloquially called shooting stars.

The Astronomy Institute of Czech Academy of Science says that conditions won't be this ideal again until 2023. “In addition to the meteor show, the sky will have the four brightest planets of the solar system," the institute said in a press release. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus should be visible.

The meteor shower is one of several that occur regularly every year. The meteors are small bits of cosmic debris that burn up in the earth's atmosphere, leaving a bright trail behind. The shower is called the Perseids because the shooting stars come to a single radiant point in the direction of the constellation Perseus.

The bits of debris enter the earth's atmosphere at 59 kilometers per second. They start to glow at about 120 km to about 80 km above the earth.

While conditions are optimal, light pollution in Prague from streetlights and signs makes it more difficult. Conditions are better in rural areas away from city lights, especially in mountain areas. Under favorable conditions, people can see up to 70 meteors per hour

The Perseids are sometimes also called Tears of Saint Lawrence, as they occur close to the feast day of the martyr who died Aug. 10, 248 AD, according to Christian tradition. The meteor showers, however, was observed long before that, with the first written record being 36 BC.

Some 200 years ago the then-director of the Klementinum Observatory, a priest named Martin Alois David, took measurements of the shower from Sněžka mountain, on what is now the border of the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the highest point in the Czech Republic.

The Štefánik Observatory on Petřín hill will be open, weather permitting, from 9 pm to 11 pm, but it does not offer any advantage in seeing meteors as they move so fast. There will be good views of planets, several star clusters and binary stars, though for those interested.

The city's other observatory at Ďáblice will not be open in night hours on Aug. 12.

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