Every year in mid-August, Earth plows headlong into the debris left behind by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

Slamming into our atmosphere at 130,000 mph, the crumbles flash to light as the Perseid meteor shower.  One of the world’s most beloved cosmic spectacles, this year’s show promises to be a real crowd pleaser.

Not only will the Moon be absent, but the shower maximum happens around 3 a.m.
CDT (8 UT) August 13 — early morning hours across North America when the Perseid radiant is highest.
How many meteors will you see? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 meteors per hour. As always, the darker and less light polluted your observing site, the more zips and zaps you’ll see.

The Perseids appear to radiate from spot below the W of Cassiopeia in the constellation Perseus, hence the shower’s name. This map shows the sky facing northeast around 12:30 a.m. local time August 13. Source: Stellarium

Shower meteors will show up in every corner of the sky, but can all be traced backwards to a point in Perseus called the radiant. That’s the direction from which they all appear to stream out of like bats flying out of a cave.

Meteors in a meteor shower appear to radiate from a point in the distance in identical fashion to driving a car in a snowstorm. The motion of the car (Earth) creates the illusion of meteors radiating from a point in the sky ahead of the observer. Credit: Bob King
Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle seen during its last pass by Earth on Nov. 1, 1992. A filament of dust deposited by the comet in 1862 may cause a temporary spike in activity around 18:39 UT on August 12. Credit: Gerald Rhemann

How To Watch

Already the shower’s active. Go out any night through about the 15th and you’ll see at least at least a handful of Perseids an hour.
At nightfall on the peak night of August 12-13, you may see only 20-30 meteors an hour because the radiant is still low in the sky.
But these early hours give us the opportunity to catch an earthgrazer — a long, very slow-moving meteor that skims the atmosphere at a shallow angle, crossing half the sky or more before finally fading out.

A Perseid meteor streaks across the northeastern sky two Augusts ago. Give the shower an hour’s worth of your time – you won’t be disappointed. Credit: Bob King

The later you stay up, the higher the radiant rises and the more meteors you’ll see. Peak activity of 50-100 meteors per hour will occur between about 2-4 a.m.
No need to stare at the radiant to see meteors. You can look directly up at the darkest part of the sky or face east or southeast and look halfway up if you like.
You’re going to see meteors everywhere. Some will arrive as singles, others in short burst of 2, 3, 4 or more. I like to face southeast with the radiant off to one side.
That way I can see a mix of short-trailed meteors from near the radiant and longer, graceful streaks further away just like the snow photo shows.

If there’s a lull in activity, don’t think it’s over. Meteor showers have strange rhythms of their own. Five minutes of nothing can be followed by multiple hits or even a fireball. Get into the feel of the shower as you sense spaceship Earth speeding through the comet’s dusty orbit. Embrace the chill of the August night under the starry vacuum.

GOOD LUCK!  -steve

(excerpts from: Bob King)