skywatching shows
One of the year’s most spectacular skywatching shows begins tonight. Here's how to take it in.

It’s a good time to look up. One of the year’s most spectacular skywatching shows, the annual Perseid meteor shower, is back to light up the night sky.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks in mid-August, when up to 100 meteors can be seen per hour, but the celestial event will be active beginning Wednesday, which means shooting stars may be visible on clear nights starting this week.

The Perseids are considered “the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the best way to view the Perseids is to head out in the predawn hours, though some meteors may be visible earlier, from 10 p.m. onward, according to NASA.

Meteor showers are best viewed from places that are away from city lights, as light pollution can drown out the shooting stars.

The Perseid meteor shower is called that because the shooting stars appear to stream from a point in the sky where the constellation of Perseus is located. While the constellation is not the source of the meteors, it can help skywatchers figure out where to look.

Meteors are often called “shooting stars,” but they actually come from bits of debris in space that hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.

The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year from around mid-July to late August, as Earth passes through a cloud of dust particles and debris from a comet known as 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862.

As particles from the comet hit the atmosphere at speeds of up to 140,000 mph, they become heated and appear as streaks of light across the night sky. Larger pieces of the comet that cause unusually bright meteors are called fireballs.

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