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Five reasons to watch meteors in Sweden

The Local · 12 Aug 2015, 10:00

Published: 12 Aug 2015 07:00 GMT+02:00
Updated: 12 Aug 2015 10:00 GMT+02:00

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1. It's a particularly good year

If you don't trust us, trust the brainiacs at Nasa, who advise: “If you see one meteor shower this year, make it August's Perseids or December's Geminids. The Perseids feature fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains, and in 2015 there will be no moonlight to upstage the shower.”

The shower has been active since the 13th of July and will continue until the end of August, but activity will peak on Wednesday night (August 12th-13th). What is unique for this year is that it falls on the night just before a new moon, which means the skies will be darker than usual and the shooting stars more visible.

“What makes this year's Perseids better than most is the fact that the moon will not be lighting up the sky, and there is a good chance that the shower will be given a 'shot in the arm' as earth may encounter more meteors along its orbit than usual,” astronomer Tom Callen told The Local's sister site in Spain, where the meteors will also be visible.

Pretty impressive, no? Photo: AP Photo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Blaine McCartney

2. Astronomy is awesome

Oh, come on, you all know geeky is the new cool. And the Perseids are the kings of cool and they're visible across the northern hemisphere. Find a place as far away from light pollution as possible, so head to wide open spaces away from the city. Then wait until sunset (it may take a while – this is northern Europe in summer), face north-east and enjoy the show.

The shooting stars are visible to the naked eye so no need for binoculars or a telescope, but allow yourself to be accustomed to the darkness, which usually takes around 20 minutes. Have patience as the shower comes in spurts – nothing for a while and then a sudden flurry of activity. The Perseids cloud consists of particles ejected by the Swift-Tuttle comet as it travels through the universe on its 133-year orbit. Most of the particles have been part of the cloud for around a thousand years. So what you're watching is a little piece of ancient history. Get that.

3. Romance is written in the sky

The Perseids are the perfect excuse to take your special someone on a sky-gazing date – the romantic setting outside the normal 'fika' comfort zone will soften the hearts of even the most withdrawn of Swedes. 

However, the old “let's make a wish upon a shooting star” is unlikely to work on the practical Swedes, so you're best off wooing them with facts instead.

Mention that the Perseids occur annually when the orbit of Earth crosses into the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle. And drop into conversation that they are named after the constellation Perseus because that is where the meteors seem to originate from when looking up at the sky.

Charm your special someone with a night of... stargazing, we meant to say stargazing! Photo: AP Photo/Petar Petrov

4. You can make new friends

Swedes are keen amateur astronomers and thousands are expected to turn out to watch the Perseids. If you think staring at the sky could be a fun social activity, why not meet up with one of the many astronomy clubs across the country organizing events. Societies in Mariestad just outside of Stockholm, Karlskrona in the south, and Norrköping in central Sweden are all opening their doors to non-members on Wednesday night.

Remember, however, to bring a warm jumper if you don't fancy snuggling up to your new-found friends. Temperatures are expected to drop to between 11C and 16C later in the night depending on where in Sweden you live. And after all, the Swedish summer has been notoriously unpredictable, so best to be on the safe side.

5. It's the best you're going to get this year

The Perseids take place every year, so it is not exactly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But do you remember that other event advertised as such earlier this year that in the end turned out to be more hype than action?

Story continues below…

Yes, solar eclipse, we're talking about you.

While much of the world was plunged into dimness during the most complete solar eclipse in 10 years back in March, the overcast Nordic sky on the day made it look mostly like any old winter day in Sweden.

This left many Swedes hungry for a properly stunning weather phenomenon. And with, as we mentioned earlier, particularly good conditions for a great show, it looks like their prayers are set to be answered thanks to the Perseids on Wednesday night.

If you find a dark spot from where to watch the Perseids, just before dawn, you have a chance at seeing as many as 50 to a whopping 120 meteors an hour. Just make sure you stock up on wishes beforehand.

The solar eclipse in Stockholm earlier this year. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

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The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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