Each year in late July or early August, we witness the Perseid Meteor showers, a spectacular 'shooting star display', as the Earth in its orbit around the sun, passes through the dusty remains of the comet Swift-Tuttle. This year, the best time to watch nature's annual firework show will be on late Saturday, August 11th or early Sunday when the skies are darkest.
Called Perseids because they appear to spew off the constellation Perseus, the meteors have already been streaming through our skies at the rate of about a dozen per hour for the last few weeks. However this weekend, they will accelerate to 100 or more per hour, making them easier to view with the naked eye.
If that's not enough, three of the brightest planets in our Universe - Jupiter, Venus and a crescent Moon will be aligning just before sunrise from August 11-13th - The same time the meteor showers reach their peak. Given that avid sky watchers have always maintained that there is nothing prettier than a close encounter with the moon and Venus, a smattering of Perseids can only make the whole scene extra spectacular.
The meteors, which hit the Earth's atmosphere at speeds of 140,000 mph are debris left behind by the comet, Swift-Tuttle as it traveled through the area on its 132-135-year orbit. We happen upon them the same time each year, as the Earth passes through the region along its orbit around the sun. And, while they can be seen from most parts of the world, they are most visible from the Northern Hemisphere because of the path of the Swift-Tuttle's orbit.
So be sure to rise and shine early this Sunday morning or better still, make plans to camp out all night because according the NASA, the best time to watch the show is in the dark hours immediately before dawn. Also if possible, try get away from the well-lit areas and most important of all, don't forget to make a wish or two - They are bound to come true!
Resources: NASA.gov, Huffingtonpost.com