Meteor shower
Perseid Meteor Shower

For all you stargazers out there, tonight (August 12, 2009) is the best night to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have some half-decent weather, you will have quite the treat in store for you. The annual meteor show occurs every year around this time as the Earth travels through the debris of the comment Swift-Tuttle. As the rocky debris enters the atmosphere, this causes little flare-ups that constitute “shooting stars”. Occasionally larger pieces of rock will hit the atmosphere causing even large flashes.The rocky debris from this comet provides quite the display for those interested in watching. Astronomers estimate that for those who have clear skies you will be able to see as many as 100 shooting stars per hour, or a couple every minute. The best time to watch this spectacle is between midnight and about 5:00 a.m. tonight. According to NASA:

For sky watchers in North America, the watch begins after nightfall on August 11th and continues until sunrise on the 12th. Veteran observers suggest the following strategy: Unfold a blanket on a flat patch of ground. (Note: The middle of your street is not a good choice.) Lie down and look up. Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower’s radiant in the constellation Perseus. Get away from city lights if you can.

There is one light you cannot escape on August 12th. The 55% gibbous Moon will glare down from the constellation Aries just next door to the shower’s radiant in Perseus. The Moon is beautiful, but don’t stare at it. Bright moonlight ruins night vision and it will wipe out any faint Perseids in that part of the sky.

You can also watch the shower live here!

If you can’t manage to get out and watch it because of cloudy weather, you can follow the shower live on Twitter. There should be plenty of picture and video links, and it’s always fun to share events like this with others who are interested.

Perseid Meteor Shower