A few Perseids can be seen as much as two weeks before and a week after the peak. The extreme limits, in fact, are said to extend from July 17 to Aug. 24, though an occasional one might be seen almost anytime during the month of August. [Early Perseid Meteor Shower Fireballs Seen by NASA (Video)]
No danger in watching
Many years ago, a phone call came into New York's Hayden Planetarium. The caller sounded concerned after hearing a radio announcement of an upcoming Perseid meteor display and wanted to know if it would be dangerous to stay outdoors on the night of the peak of the shower (perhaps assuming there was a danger of getting hit).
These meteoroids, however, are no bigger than sand grains or pebbles, have the consistency of cigar ash and are consumed many miles above our heads. The caller was passed along to the Planetarium's Chief Astronomer who commented that there are only two dangers from observing the Perseid meteor shower: getting drenched with dew and falling asleep!
August is also the month of "The Tears of St. Lawrence," which has a historic link to the Perseids.
Laurentius, a Christian deacon, is said to have been martyred by the Romans in 258 AD on an iron outdoor stove. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: "I am already roasted on one side and, if thou wouldst have me well cooked, it is time to turn me on the other."
The saint’s death was commemorated on his feast day, Aug. 10. King Phillip II of Spain built his monastery place the "Escorial," on the plan of the holy gridiron. And the abundance of shooting stars seen annually between approximately Aug. 8 and 14 have come to be known as St. Lawrence's "fiery tears."
Whether you plan to make detailed meteor counts or just lie back and watch nature put on a show, there should be plenty to during the predawn hours of Aug. 12 and 13. As one long-time meteor enthusiast once noted: "Meteor observing is relaxing and enjoyable, potentially dramatic and just plain fun!"
Editor's Note: If you snap an amazing picture of the 2013 Perseid meteor shower or any other night sky view that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send photos, comments and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Photos: Amazing Perseid Meteor Shower Displays
- Perseid Meteors Peak and Planets Align - Where To Look | Video
- Meteor Shower Quiz: How Well Do You Know 'Shooting Stars'?
Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.