Page last updated at 23:23 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 00:23 UK

Stargazers in 'Twitter marathon'

Perseid meteor track over Tucson Mountain Park, Arizona
The Perseids meteor show is one of the highlights of the astronomical calendar

Budding astronomers are being urged to take part in the first "Twitter Meteorwatch" by sending in their pictures of the Perseid meteor shower.

The annual light show of shooting stars is expected to peak between Tuesday evening and Thursday morning.

The "48-hour Twitter marathon" will form part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).

Organiser Steve Owens, from the Glasgow Science Centre and Newbury Astronomical Society, said anyone could join in.

He said: "We've got hundreds of people taking part, we want anyone who is interested to get involved.

"The original plan was for it to be a local UK event, with a few people around the country. But as it turns out, it's spread like wild fire. We've got people from America and all over the world. It's turned into a 48-hour non-stop Twitter marathon."

Mr Owen said those wanting to capture the meteor shower do not need a telescopic camera, but could take a shot with a normal digital camera.

"Ideally go somewhere darker than the city centre, like a park, where you will see dark skies," he said.

"The best thing to bring is a deck chair and just look up at the skies for about an hour.

Live tweets

The annual Perseid showers are caused by small bits of debris, many no bigger than a grain of sand, that enter the Earth's atmosphere when our orbit passes through the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet.

These particles travel at very high speeds, reaching up to 50km per second (32 miles per second), and burn up in the atmosphere.

This causes the air around them to get extremely hot, which produces the visible streak of light.

During the peak of the shower between 50 and 80 shooting stars may be visible each hour from a dark sky site.

Organisers of the IYA2009 will lead a global network of astronomers who will be live-tweeting images of the meteors as well as twitpics of the moon, Jupiter and other astronomical objects.

It follows on from Twitter Moonwatch, which the Newbury Astronomical Society ran in May, during which thousands of people saw images of the moon and chatted online about astronomy.

For Twitter Meteorwatch follow @astronomy2009UK or @newburyAS.

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