This weekend there is a chance to witness one of the most spectacular celestial fireworks display in the skies above us, when the annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on August 12. 

Coats Observatory curator John Pressly explains: "Meteors are small pieces of space dust - usually only about the size of a grain of sand - that burn up upon entering Earth's atmosphere. The dust particles are travelling at over 80,000 mph, meaning that even the smallest piece will produce a vivid streak of light lasting a few seconds as it disintegrates. 

"The source of the Perseid meteor shower is the comet Swift-Tuttle. This comet orbits the Sun every 133 years, leaving a debris trail as it passes 

"The meteors are referred to as Perseids as they appear to originate from the constellation of Perseus. Perseus is quite an easy constellation to find. Look east around 10pm and you will spot the ‘W’ shape of Cassiopeia. Perseus sits below the first two stars of the ‘W;. 

"It is possible to see a few 'early' Perseids on the nights leading up to the peak, and there will be some visible for a few nights afterwards. However, the most spectacular night of meteors will begin on the 12 August. 

"The shower should start between 10pm and midnight, when Perseus is well up in the eastern sky. As the night unfolds the meteor rate should increase, reaching a peak around 2am when there may be as many as one or two a minute. The Moon, which rises around 11pm, will be heading towards third quarter, meaning the fainter meteors will likely be washed out by the moonlight, but there should be enough bright ones to make up for this. 

"The Perseid meteor shower is best viewed using the naked eye. Given the speed they move at and their brief duration it is next to impossible to catch a meteor in a telescope or binoculars. The best way of observing them is to wrap up very warmly, lie back on a deck chair and watch the sky. If you are planning a long night be sure to have something warm to drink and something to eat, such as chocolate, to keep the energy levels up."