The Perseids meteor shower will peak Saturday night and into Sunday morning, lighting up the sky with streaks of light if clouds defy the National Weather Service forecast and stay away.
The shower splashes through the sky every year in early August when Earth passes through the Swift-Tuttle comet's orbit and sweeps up some of this debris. We see rapid streaks of light as the tiny rocks encounter the Earth's thin upper atmosphere and the air is heated to incandescence.
Space.com tells us meteors are tiny bits of rock and debris from an old comet that is named after Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle, the astronomers who discovered it in 1862.
For the geeks among us, here's some trivia: The Perseids get their name from Perseus, the constellation from which they seem to emanate, but they can appear anywhere in the sky. Their only connection with Perseus is that, if you trace their path backward across the sky, eventually you get to Perseus.
Cranbrook Institute of Science astronomy director Mike Narlock tells Detroit radio station WDET that city lights can obscure the meteor shower and suggested heading up north for optimum viewing.
"You just want to get as far away from city lights as possible, he said.
You can see the shower anywhere in the sky, but look toward the east or northeast to see the meteors at their brightest and longest, Narlock said.
This is bit of advice from Space.com:
If you don't see any meteors at first, be patient. This is a meteor shower, not a meteor storm. There will be a lot more meteors than you would see on a normal night, but they will still only come at random intervals, perhaps 20 or 30 in an hour.
When you do see a meteor, it will likely be very fast and at the edge of your field of vision. You may even doubt that what you saw was real. But, when you do see something, watch that area more closely, as two or three meteors often come in groups down the same track.
"What we generally tell folks is go out around midnight and just cast your eyes to the heavens and you won't be disappointed," Narlock said.