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Perseids meteor shower expected to light up skies

A meteor from the Perseids shower photographed over Georgia, United States of America Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

A powerful meteor shower is expected to light up British skies tonight with "a natural firework display", astronomy experts have predicted.

The meteors can be seen by the naked eye and are the result of material falling from the tail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast explained: "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."


NASA: Fireball seen over US 'probably a yard across'

Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environmental Office said the widely-reported flash in the sky was probably "a single meteor event." He told the Associated Press:

[It] looks to be a fireball that moved roughly toward the South East, going on visual reports.

Judging from the brightness, we're dealing with something as bright as the full moon.

The thing is probably a yard across. We basically have [had] a boulder enter the atmosphere over the North East.

– Bill Cooke, nasa

Eyewitness: Meteor made 'hissing noise' as it passed

One Twitter user claims to have heard a hissing sound as what is believed to have been a meteor passed over his New Jersey home:


Meteor Society verify over 300 sightings of 'fireball'

The American Meteor Society has verified over 300 witness sightings of a meteor in at least 13 US states.

Stretching from Ontario down to the southern state of North Carolina, there are still over 100 reports yet to be reviewed, said Mike Hankey, an observer for the American Meteor Society.

"This was most certainly a fireball seen over a good portion of the eastern states," said Robert Lunsford, the society's fireball coordinator.

"It happened at a good time, around 8 o'clock on a Friday night, when a lot of people were out to see it," Lunsford said.

Meteor collision research 'needs more money'

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki from the University of Sydney said not enough money is being spent on researching a researching meteor collision. Speaking on the BBC Radio World Service, he said:

Chillingly we spend more money on making movies about rocks that can hit the earth than we do about looking for the actual rocks.

Dr Kruszelnicki said there were two possible ways to averting a potential meteoric disaster: painting the meteor white, so that the sun exerts more pressure on it, thus pushing past earth, or using a rocket to push it out of the earth's path. He explained:

We send a whole lot of people who normally spend their time painting the whole surface white, over a few years that pressure might nudge it off by a few thousand kilometres over a few years and that would just miss us as opposed to just hitting us.

If we have less time, then we have to think about getting up there with rockets. Pushing the rockets hard against the rock and then firing it and trying to nudge it off with sheer Newtonian mechanics.

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