Get out your telescopes, because the annual Perseid meteor shower peaks Saturday night, offering spectacular views of shooting stars as meteors enter Earth's atmosphere. The meteor shower will coincide with a stunning view of Jupiter, the moon, and Venus. So when is the best time to see it?
The meteor shower can be seen beginning at about 9 p.m. EDT, with a comparatively small number of shooting stars visible. Around 11 p.m., the number of meteors will start picking up, as more and more enter Earth's atmosphere.
Once the peak of the shower commences, you can expect to see several shooting stars per minute.
As a bonus, viewers will be able to see Jupiter, the moon, and Venus rise in that order throughout the night. The view should provide a spectacular background to the meteor shower, depending on factors such as light pollution and weather conditions.
So what is the best way to experience the meteor shower? By being in the right location and having a little bit of patience.
"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," Space.com's skywatching columnist Joe Rao noted.
"When you do see a meteor, it will likely be very fast and at the edge of your field of vision," Rao pointed out. "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."
To best experience the Perseid meteor shower, make sure you find a viewing spot away from bright city lights. Light pollution caused by buildings and streetlights make it much harder to see the night sky, and meteor showers are no exception. If possible, try to find a viewing area as far away from bright lights as possible.
Of course, many Americans may live in areas with too much light pollution to see the meteor shower at all on Saturday night. If you happen to live in a large city in the U.S. and are worried about missing out on the astronomical event of the weekend, don't worry: IBTimes has a handy guide to finding out-of-the-way viewing locations in your area.
According to the Weather Channel, some Americans might have their views of the Perseid meteor shower blocked by clouds. Much of the East Coast and Midwest are expected to have cloudy skies, so people in those areas may have a relatively hard time viewing the shower.
For more information on the meteor shower, check out the NASA video below about the Perseid event that the space agency put together for its online ScienceCasts series.