THE annual Perseid meteor shower is set to grace our night skies over the next week, with the peak of its appearance occurring tonight, Saturday.

The multi-coloured streaks are so called because the radiant (the point they appear to come from) is within the constellation Perseus – a Greek hero and slayer of monsters.

At its peak, meteors can travel at around 60 miles per hour, and are best seen when the moon is not full and the sky is clear.

The shower is set to peak on Saturday, although visibility will be good on Sunday.

Saturday is set to be a mostly cloudy day, however the current forecast suggests a clear night, meaning stargazers could be in luck for catching the meteor shower

Alan Jefferis from the Wessex Astronomical Society suggests that those wishing to see the Perseids at their best should head to one of the county’s dark sky spots.

“We have an astronomy centre at Durlston Country Park where we host public stargazing events every year, around 250 people attended last year because it was a clear night – it felt very much like a party atmosphere.”

Another dark sky spot in the county is Cranbourne Chase, which is hoping to attain International Dark Sky Reserve status.

“This year, the moon will be less than five days past full, and it rises at about 11pm,” Alan explained, “this can make it difficult to see the meteor shower, so the best time to look out for it is from 9:30pm when it begins to get dark until the moon is fully risen.”

Although there are many meteorological events throughout the year, the Perseids is the most prolific, Alan said.

Occurring between July 17 and August 20 each year, those observing the stream of debris from the Perseid cloud needn’t worry about using any equipment.

“It’s no use having binoculars because they’re very quick. Unless you get a very bright one, that will leave a trail lasting around thirty seconds – but those are very exceptional.”

If you cannot make it to a Dark Sky Discovery spot, the advice is to steer clear of towns and cities, and find an area where you can see as much sky as possible.

Alan said: “Towns have a lot of light pollution from car headlights and street lamps, so it’s best to find somewhere in the countryside. And it’s a good idea to check the weather before you go out”.

The stargazing event at Durlston Country Park Astronomy Centre takes place at 9pm on Saturday, August 12.