Skywatchers are in for a treat this weekend, when the Perseid meteor shower reaches full throttle. The event will set the stage for November's celestial blockbuster, the much-anticipated Leonid meteor shower.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which last crossed the inner solar system in 1992. As it neared the Sun, charged particles from our star burned material off the comet. When that materialmostly particles no larger than grains of sandcomes into contact with our planet's atmosphere it burns up, creating meteors, or shooting stars.
The best times to scan the skies for these tiny bursts of light in North America will be on August 11 and August 12 during the late night and early morning hours. Don't bother bringing a telescope or binoculars though, because the meteors move too quickly. Sharp eyes should suffice.