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Meteors in light battle with the moon

A DRAMATIC "supermoon" is set to accompany this year's Perseid meteor shower, one of the most anticipated events on the skywatcher's calendar.

Given a dark, clear sky in a normal year, it is common to see more than 100 of the meteors an hour during the second week in August.

But this year the Perseids have a bright shining rival - a "supermoon". On Sunday, two days before the meteor shower reaches its peak, the moon will become full.

Coincidentally, it will also have reached the point in its orbit that is closest to the Earth, known as "perigee".

The supermoon will be up to 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons during the year.

Dr Bill Cooke, of the American space agency Nasa's Meteoroid Environment Office, said: "Lunar glare wipes out the black-velvety backdrop required to see faint meteors."

But all is not lost. The debris stream left by comet Swift-Tuttle, which produces the Perseid, is wide, so the shooting stars could make an appearance well before the moon becomes full.

Dr Cooke added that the Perseids were also "rich in fireballs as bright as Venus" that would remain visible despite the moon's glare.

Tony Markham, director of the Society for Popular Astronomy's meteor section, also urged skywatchers to stay optimistic. He said: "You can minimise the effect of the moonlight by observing with your back to the moon. If possible, keep the moon hidden behind trees or a nearby building."

The best time to see the meteors is between Saturday and Wednesday, with activity peaking on Tuesday.

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