The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak during the predawn hours of Tuesday, August 12. Observers in dark locations may see 40-60 meteors per hour before twilight begins that morning.
The Perseids result from Earth plowing through a stream of sand-grain-sized particles left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. While the comet won't return to the inner Solar System until the next century, the Perseids offer an annual show. But viewing conditions for this meteor shower vary from year to year. Some years, the shower falls victim to bright moonlight, reducing rates to a mere trickle. Other Perseid peaks are lost to cloud cover.
The moon phase is a mixed bag this year with a Waxing Gibbous moon which doesn't set until about 2 a.m...thus meteor-watchers wanting a decent night's sleep are out of luck. On the other hand, the two or three hours prior to the start of twilight see the shower at its strongest. Obviously weather conditions will also determine whether or not the meteor shower can be viewed. Click here for the latest weather forecast.
Once you get out of bed, viewing meteor showers is simple. First, find the darkest sky possible; any light pollution drastically reduces the number of visible meteors. A reclining lawn chair and blankets offer viewing comfort. And don't forget that insect repellent!
The Perseids are named for the constellation Perseus, which at 3 a.m. is located high in the northeastern sky. The meteors appear to come from an area of sky within this constellation, but can appear a considerable distance from it. Viewers should face northeast while keeping your eyes scanning as much of the sky as possible.
Traveling in parallel paths, Perseid meteors appear to come from a specific area of the sky within the contellation Perseus, high in the NE at 3 a.m. on August 12. The meteors often appear a considerable distance from the radiant, so viewers want to keep scanning across the entire sky to see the greatest numbers of Perseids. (Diagram by Dan Glomski using Stellarium and Adobe Photoshop CS software.)