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.

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Shooting stars peak tonight

The skies are expected to shimmer with a "natural firework display" tonight as a meteor shower crosses into the earth's atmosphere, astronomy experts have predicted.