Every year, Earth passes through an enormous cloud of ice and rock. This cloud is made up of debris left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, which is on a huge orbit that last passed by us in 1992.
As the planet passes through this debris, chunks of it fall into our atmosphere. They whip down toward us at tremendous speed (about 215,000 kph or 133,000 mph), only to burn up in the atmosphere in brilliant flashes of light.
The event is so regular, it has a name. The Perseids Meteor Shower.
The Perseids last for just over a month: mid-July to late August. But they are most intense during the second week of August. So let's talk about what we can expect to see.
Hundreds per hour
The peak of the Perseids can provide anywhere from 100 to 200 visible meteors per hour. That's around 2 to 3 per minute, meaning you don't need to worry about blinking and missing the whole show.
The vastness of the meteor shower is because the comet that leaves behind all of this rock and ice is enormous. Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest known comet to pass Earth. Its nucleus (core) is around 26 km (16 miles) in width. If think seeing it would be pretty awesome, we agree! But sadly, its orbit is so huge it is not due by here again until ... 2126!
But at least we have the Perseids, an epic meteor shower that will be extra great this summer. Why?
Because of the Moon!
Moon moves aside
The Moon is the brightest object in our night sky. This is something that stargazers both love and hate.
On one hand, viewing a big bright full moon (like the supermoon we just had on August 1) is super cool. But when the Moon is out, its glare makes it much harder to see anything else in the night sky.
But this year, the Moon and the Perseids are in almost perfect sync.
When the Perseids are peaking on August 13, the Moon will be almost completely dark. This fact alone will mean that around twice as many meteors will be visible compared to last year.
Here's the plan
If you would like to see the Perseids, talk to an adult and make a plan.
The best time to see them is in the pre-dawn hours. So you need to get up earrrrrrly.
You also need to find a spot that is as dark as possible—this means trying to get away from the city if that is where you live. And you'll also need some supplies, such as warm clothes, a deck chair, and maybe some drinks and snacks.
But with the peak of this year's shower happening on the weekend, you couldn't ask for a much better time to see some falling stars! Have fun!