Perseid meteor shower expected to be truly spectacular

A multiple exposure picture taken in the early hours of August 11, 2013 shows a Perseid meteor shower in the sky, near the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Madrid. (Dani Pozo/Getty Images)

It's time for the annual cosmic show known as the Perseid meteor shower, and this week is your best chance in the past five years to see the sky rain "shooting stars."

As a new moon approaches on Thursday morning, Aug. 13, observers in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best opportunity to witness the spectacle in full glory without the glare of moonlight. The best viewing time will be Wednesday night going into Thursday, when the meteors begin trickling into view just before midnight. The pace quickly picks up until the early morning hours.

The conditions to view the Perseids have not been this good for the Northern Hemisphere since 2010.

The meteor shower is expected to reach its peak early Thursday morning at 4 a.m. ET | 1 a.m. PT when as many as 100 meteors per hour will be visible in the night sky, according to ABC News. For best viewing, look toward the northeastern part of the sky, near the constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus.

The Perseid meteor shower is a result of space debris from the tail of the Swift-Tuttle comet orbiting around the sun every 133 years. The meteor shower has been observed for at least 2,000 years as the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris each August, causing small bits of dust to enter and burn up in our atmosphere at 37 miles per second.

As the dust disintegrates, stunning bright streaks light up the sky.

"If you see one meteor shower this year, make it August's Perseids or December's Geminids," NASA says. "The Perseids feature fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains, and in 2015 there will be no moonlight to upstage the shower."
Related Topics:
weathersciencedistractionspacebuzzworthywatercooleru.s. & world