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A Perseid streaks across the sky over the archaeological site Stobi in modern-day Macedonia (GEORGI LICOVSKI/epa/Corbis)

The Perseids Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight

Watch the remains of comet Swift-Tuttle burn up in the atmosphere

smithsonian.com

The annual Perseids meteor shower—the dazzling display created by the death of the remnants of comet Swift-Tuttle high in the Earth's atmosphere—is set to peak tonight (as today's Google Doodle hints).

For many meteor watchers, the Perseids are a favorite, says EarthSky, because the display is extended and reliable and because it happens to take place on a warm August night, rather than the cold of winter like so many other meteor showers. And people have been enjoying the Perseids for a long, long time, says Space:

NASA scientists estimate that stargazers have been enjoying the Perseids for about 2,000 years and expect that the comet was first observed as far back as 188 AD.

The Perseids tend to bring between 50 and 100 meteors per hour, and they can be seen starting as early as 10 p.m. local time, says NASA, though the best viewing is just before dawn. The meteors will appear everywhere in the sky, but their radiant point is just outside the constellation Perseus.

Part of the appeal of the Perseids is that the meteors don't appear all in one fell swoop. Though the peak of the shower will take place overnight, the display itself will actually last, with diminishing intensity, for another couple weeks. If you happen to be blocked by cloudy skies, there's always tomorrow.

Unfortunately the show this year will be a bit trickier to catch than some other years, says Universe Today. The Moon is just waning from this past weekend's Supermoon and thus is still quite bright. If you're having trouble seeing any meteors through the Moon's glow Universe Today recommends trying to find a spot where a big building or hill blocks the Moon from view.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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