Coming to a sky in the Northern Hemisphere is a dazzling show for stargazers: the Perseid meteor shower.
Around this time every year, Earth ventures into the wake of an ancient comet called Swift-Tuttle, which leaves behind trillions of particles. Those tiny bits of debris, traveling at around 132,000 mph, create vivid streaks of light when they collide with Earth’s atmosphere. But NASA says they don’t pose a danger to Earth because most particles burn up 50 miles above our planet.
The Perseid meteors are so named because they look like they’re radiating from the constellation Perseus. In Greek mythology, Perseus was the hero who chopped off the head of Medusa and lived to tell the tale. The meteors, it’s said, rain like sparks from his blade.
How can you see the meteor shower?
While the Perseids have been passing over Earth since the end of July, peak viewing will be from Aug. 11 through Aug. 13 as night turns to dawn. As long as skies are clear, Americans from coast to coast can see the meteor shower right overhead. This weekend will also bring a new moon, which will make the skies extra dark. To get the best view, NASA suggests you steer clear of bright city lights and allow 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.