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Stargazers look to Jupiter for Astronomy Week

As the darkness falls stargazers across our region are preparing for some amazing views of Jupiter tonight.

The largest planet in our Solar System is the focal point of National Astronomy Week and the telescopes at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux in Sussex are already pointing in its direction.

Andy Dickenson reports and speaks to Sandra Voss, science director of the observatory, and Laurie Marsden, project co-ordinator of National Astronomy Week.

Includes pictures from NASA.

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Perseids shooting star show set for tonight

The Perseids meteor shower returns every August as the Earth passes through a comet's tail Credit: Patrick Pleul/DPA/Press Association Images

Although the Perseids meteor shower is an annual event, the Royal Astronomical Society believes prospects for this year's showing are particularly good and could mean up to 60 shooting stars an hour in the UK.

Meteors, commonly known as shooting stars, are the result of small particles entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speed.

These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground.

Stargazers will need only their own eyes to enjoy the natural occurrence, which is a result of material falling from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992.

"Comet Swift-Tuttle won't be visiting our neck of the woods again until the year 2125, but every year we get this beautiful reminder as the Earth ploughs through the debris it leaves in its orbit," said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast.

Night sky excitement

If you like a bit of astronomy then you're in luck over the next few days. Firstly you might spot the the International Space Station whizzing across the sky. Click here to find out where to look and, if you manage to get a photo, please email it to meridianweather@itv.com.

Also the Perseid Meteor Shower gets going this weekend. Greg Parker of The New Forest Observatory says: "It will be worth watching late in the evening on the 10th,11th,12th and 13th of this month. The peak evenings are the 11th and 12th but you often see them a day earlier or even a day later."

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New life for radio telescope

A group of students from Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury is to restore an ancient radio telescope and use it to study the sun.

David Johns reports, talking to John Batchelor from the University of Kent, students Theodorakis Dimitrios & James Hylands, plus scientist Dr Geoff Macdonald and teacher Becky Parker

Students restore radio telescope

It was the height of technological expertise in the 1960s, but has lain derelict for years.

Radio satellite Credit: ITV News Meridian

Now, despite being overgrown, rusting and covered in moss, a radio telescope at the University of Kent is to have new life breathed into it by 'A' level students at a local school.

A-Level students from Simon Langton Grammar inspect the telescope Credit: ITV News Meridian

The pupils at Simon Langton Grammar want to restore the telescope and peer into the distant reaches of our universe.

Dr Geoff MacDonald from the University of Kent said "It can be refurbished certainly and now days its is actually easier to do radio astronomy in an amateur way than it was forty years ago because of the good quality of receivers, especially thanks to the development of satellite TV".

Super bright comet visible in daylight

Comets are believable to date back to the start of the universe Credit: NASA

Groups such as the Newbury Astronomical Society are eagerly awaiting Comet Ison's arrival in November 2013. It is predicated to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Another comet called 2014 LA will be visible from the region in the Spring. Comets originate in the Oort cloud, more than a light year away.

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