Spectators can expect to see the greatest number of meteors during the shower’s peak “Perseid Meteor Shower” on the morning of August 12, according to NASA.
Years without moonlight see higher rates of meteors per hour, and in outburst years (such as in 2016) the rate can be between 150-200 meteors an hour.
Last year, a bright, full moon made things a little bit tricky for sky watchers looking to get a glimpse of the Perseids. So, while “the Perseids are rich in bright meteors,” NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com last year, “the moonlight is going to spoil most of the show.
This year, the moon won’t get in the way quite as much, but its bright glow could have a smaller impact on your ability to clearly spot the Perseids.
Here’s exactly how in three easy steps:
1 – Get outside as night falls on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
Technically speaking, the Perseids “peak”—and issue forth 100 “shooting stars” per hour—about an hour before dawn on Wednesday, August 12.
2 – Look east and weast
“Shooting stars” can appear at any time of night in any part of the sky, though the AMS say that “earthgrazing” Perseids will likely be seen low in the east or weast, moving north to south.
However, you may see an “earthgrazer” above your head for as long as a few seconds—they’re rare, but utterly unforgettable.
3 – Be patient to enjoy
There’s only one thing you really need. “The one absolute necessity is patience,” said Dr. Jackie Faherty, Senior Scientist and Senior Education Manager jointly in the Department of Astrophysics and the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History. “People expect to walk outside or look out their window and just see the sky alight with meteors flying around—that is just not how it works.”
What causes the Perseids?
Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest object known to repeatedly pass by Earth; its nucleus is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) wide. It last passed nearby Earth during its orbit around the sun in 1992, and the next time will be in 2126. But it won’t be forgotten in the meantime, because Earth passes through the dust and debris it leaves behind every year, creating the annual Perseid meteor shower.