The Perseids are the remnants of Comet Swift-Tuttle and stretch all the way around its 130 year orbit because it’s falling apart. First historically recorded about 2,000 years ago the main current debris source is a chunk that fell off more or less 1,000 years later and a stream from 1862. This year’s display is expected to be exceptionally active because of the numeric density of the material the Earth will pass through.
Perseid meteor shower: NASA explains why it’ll be the year’s best
By Rene Lynch, Los Angeles Times
August 10, 2012
But the Perseid meteor shower is only part of the treat in store for stargazers, NASA says.
“The brightest planets in the solar system are lining up right in the middle of the [Perseid] display,” NASA says. Specifically, “Jupiter, Venus and the crescent moon are gathering together just as the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak.”
The red giant star Aldebaran will also be visible, “adding a splash of color to the gathering,” NASA says.
The three celestial orbs will make for a brilliant, three-point line in the sky, all surrounded by shooting stars. The display is expected to be best seen in the eastern skies and in the early morning hours before sunrise.
The show will get better as the weekend winds down. Early Monday, the increasingly narrowing moon will pass even closer to Venus, as Jupiter “hovers” overhead, according to NASA.
“Star-watchers say there’s nothing prettier than a close encounter between the slender crescent moon and Venus. Nothing that is, except for the crescent moon, Venus and a flurry of Perseids.”
Viewing conditions might not be the best, especially in the Northeast, but should get better by sunrise.
Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight, best places to view it
David Epstein, Boston.com
August 11, 2012
Much of Texas, the Ohio Valley, Tennessee, the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi and the Rockies look to have favorable sky conditions. parts of Florida and a good deal of the West Coast will also be mainly clear.
If you live where it is expected to be cloudy, like here in the northeast, it is still worth looking up later tonight. Last evening we had big thunderstorms in the area but early this morning it cleared enough to see some of the meteors in the Massachusetts area. The same thing could very easily happen across the northeast later tonight.
On Saturday the 11th, leading into the 12th, expect about 25-60 meteors per hour. You won’t see the meteors evenly spread out over time. You may see nothing for five minutes and then four or more in a row a minute later. Lie on a blanket and look up rather than stand. If you stand with your neck tilted up, you will have neck issues in the morning. On Sunday night, heading into the morning of the 13th there will be fewer meteors per hour, but still a nice show. The best time to see this will be around 2AM-3AM, but if you don’t want to wait till then it’s still worthwhile once it gets dark.