A dramatic “supermoon” is set to accompany this year’s Perseid meteor shower, one of the most anticipated events on the skywatcher’s calendar.
Given a dark, clear sky in a normal year, it is common to see more than 100 of the meteors an hour during the second week in August.
But this year the Perseids have a bright shining rival – a “supermoon”.
Tomorrow, two days before the meteor shower reaches its peak, the moon will become full.
Coincidentally, it will also have reached the point in its orbit that is closest to the Earth, known as “perigee”.
The supermoon will be up to 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter than other full moons during the year.
On one level, this is bad news, according to Dr Bill Cooke from the American space agency Nasa’s Meteoroid Environment Office.
“Lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors, and sharply reduces counts, he said.
But all is not lost. The debris stream left by comet Swift-Tuttle, which produces the Perseids, is wide, so the shooting stars could make an appearance well before the moon becomes full.
Dr Cooke added that the Perseids were also “rich in fireballs as bright as Jupiter or Venus” that would remain visible despite the moon’s glare.