The annual meteor shower called the Perseids is due to peak in the early morning hours of August 12. The best show is forecast to occur between 3 am and 5 am on the 12th when the radiant is highest in the northeast. The Moon will have set earlier providing the dark sky essential for their easiest viewing. If the predictions are correct, a rate up to 200 meteors per hour is possible, twice the usual rate. Time exposures over several hours could yield an image like this one from 2009 when the Perseids last gave such a high rate.
The Perseids are dust grains from comet Swift-Tuttle which orbits the Sun every 133 years. Every time the comet orbits the Sun, it leaves more particles. Earth crosses the path of debris each year. Some enter the atmosphere at very high speeds up to 132,000 mph (59 km/s) and burn up in flashes of light. Their Perseid name is because they appear to radiate out of the upper part of the constellation Perseus close to Cassiopeia in the upper right part of this graphic.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared this video summary of the Perseids and some other features of the night sky in August you might find interesting.
What is the best way to view the Perseids? This short video sums up the task. It is very easy. Basically, you need to lie on your back and watch the sky. Thanks to the folks at the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Their job is to monitor meteor impact hazards to spacecraft.
What if clouds are a problem? A live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 10 p.m. EDT.