The 2014 Perseids meteor showers, considered the best of the year, will be at their peak August 11 through 13. The showers will be visible in the pre-dawn hours, although the moon will be a waning Gibbous Moon, making it harder to observe due to its brightness.
The Perseids are unique because they are one of the most plentiful showers, with between 50 and 100 meteors seen per hour. The shower leaves long “wakes” of light and color behind them as they streak through the Earth’s atmosphere.
According to NASA, the Perseids are also known for their fireballs.
“Fireballs are larger explosions of light and color that can persist longer than an average meteor streak,” the NASA website stated. “This is due to the fact that fireballs originate from larger particles or cometary material. Fireballs are also bright.”
The meteors that comprise Perseids are pieces of space debris that originate from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
“Meteors come from leftover particles and bits from broken asteroids,” according to the website. “When comets come around the sun, they leave a dusty trail behind them. Every year the Earth passes through these debris trails, which allows the bits to collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate to create fiery and colorful streaks in the sky.”
The comet, which takes 133 years to orbit the sun once, is a large comet – its nucleus is 15 miles across, more than twice the size of the object believed to have led to the demise of the dinosaurs.
The earliest time the Perseids may be visible is approximately 10 p.m. NASA suggests that viewers find a rural area away from artificial light, lie on a blanket or chair on the ground and allow time for eyes to adjust to the dark. After about 30 minutes, meteors should be easier to detect.
Information courtesy of http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/perseids.cfm