|Perseid shower time lapse, August 2009 NASA/JPL|
The Perseid meteor shower returns this week! It's both the most reliable shower of the year and one that produces the most fireballs. Best viewing will be after midnight on the nights of August 11 and 12. A waxing moon will make for somewhat better viewing on August 12. With clear and dark skies you should easily see 60-70 meteors per hour. The good news is you don't have to be up just before dawn to see the fireballs. They are random meteors, brighter than the planets Jupiter and Venus, and often traveling longer arcs across the sky. One of the most spectacular fireballs I ever saw cut across at least 120 degrees of steel blue sky about half an hour after sunset. One never quite knows what to expect when you watch the sky.