Stargazers are in luck this weekend. This year’s Perseids meteor shower will appear brighter than ever thanks to the almost-moonless skies. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com that while the Perseids shower occurs every August, this year’s new moon will make it “probably the best shower of 2018 for people who want to go out and view it.”
The shower gets its name because each year, the meteors appear to radiate out from the Perseus constellation. The streaks of light we see on Earth, however, are actually coming from the trail of debris (meteorites) left by the Comet Swift-Tuttle, as we cross through its path. As the meteorites enter Earth’s atmosphere, they heat up, leaving a bright streak across the sky.
While Earth has actually been passing through the wake of Swift-Tuttle since July 17th, the peak of the meteor shower will start on August 12th, and will last until the early hours of Monday, August 13th. For the best viewing, NASA recommends allotting at least 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. 60 to 70 meteors are expected to appear per hour, so if you’ve found yourself a prime viewing location, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some shooting stars.
So, what constitutes a “prime viewing location”? Well, anywhere with a clear sky and little light pollution — so get out of the city. The west coast looks like it’ll offer the best viewing opportunities, and projected thunderstorms might dampen the meteor shower for stargazers throughout the eastern United States. You can also consult this map to find dark sky locations around the world.