One of the best meteor showers of the year peaks this weekend, and with any luck, you should be able to catch at least a few of the shooting stars for yourself.
The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak the night of August 12, into the wee hours of the morning on August 13.
If you happen to be in a light-pollution-free area with nice weather, you’ll probably be able to see about 60 or 70 meteors streaking through the moonless sky, according to NASA estimates.
“The Perseids appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus, visible in the northern sky soon after sunset this time of year. Observers in mid-northern latitudes will have the best views. You should be able to see some meteors from July 17 to August 24, with the rates increasing during the weeks before August 12 and decreasing after the 13th,” NASA said in a skywatching video.
“Remember, you don’t have to look directly at the constellation to see them. You can look anywhere you want to — even directly overhead.”
The best time to see those meteors is at around 11 p.m. ET until dawn the next morning.
You won’t need any special equipment to catch the shower, either. Just make sure you have a clear view of a large swathe of the sky and be patient. Half of watching a meteor shower is waiting around for them to appear.
“Relax, be patient, and let your eyes adapt to the darkness,” Kelly Beatty, Sky & Telescope senior editor said in a statement. “The Perseids will put on a great show.”
While you’ll get the best meteor rates in a rural area, far from light pollution, you still might be able to see some meteors from a city or suburb.
If you are in a city, try to get somewhere at least somewhat sheltered from lights, maybe a park or backyard. Your meteor rates will be lower, but it’s possible to see at least a few of the brightest meteors over the course of a few hours.
The Perseids happen each year as Earth passes through the trail of dust left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which makes a full orbit of the sun every 133 years.
Those bits of cosmic dust fall into our atmosphere, creating the bright streaks we see as meteors in the night sky.
If you’re unable to see the Perseids this year in person, you can always watch them online. The Slooh observatory will host a livestream of the shower starting at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.