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Perseid meteor shower peaks evening of August 11

The annual Persied meteor shower in August peaks the evening of August 11-12, with up to 75 meteors per hour visible.
Perseid Meteor Show August 2016  (Photo:Jason Shipley)

SPOKANE, Wash. — It's the best meteor shower of the year: The Perseid's. 

Peaking the night of August 11 and the morning of August 12, the Perseid meteor shower may produce up to 75 meteors per hour in ideal dark conditions. Even those in the cities may see a couple bright shooting stars throughout the evening.

The Perseid meteor shower happens every August as the Earth passes through the comet debris leftover from comet Swift-Tuttle. The bits of rock and ice that interact with the Earth's atmosphere this time of year become the meteors that we see in the night's sky.

When's the best time to see as many meteors as possible? It's when the moon's not out. The darker the sky the better, and that includes the Moon's light which can drown out the visibility of many meteors. This year, it's a third-quarter moon that rises just before midnight. So between 10:30pm and midnight should be the best time for viewing.

In ideal darkness, 75 meteors per hours may be visible. But most of us will not see that many. If you're outside city lights, 15-20 meteors per hours may be a good estimate. But if you stay within the city and metro areas, the light pollution will make only the brightest meteors visible.

The meteor shower is not a one day event. Technically, meteors from Swift-Tuttle's debris field will hit the Earth between July 17 to August 24. But the highest density is August 11-12, making that the single best day to see the meteor shower.

Happy stargazing!