Your guide to watching the Perseid Meteor Shower
If you're planning on catching the Perseid meteor shower this week, your best viewing days are Monday through Wednesday. The shower began early Monday morning over North America, but an extremely bright supermoon overshadowed it.
"The Perseid meteor shower is known as one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing fast and bright meteors that frequently leave trains, but in 2014, a nearly full moon will upstage the show," NASA reported.
However, astronomers expect the Perseid meteor shower to peak Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so there's still plenty of time to catch the fireworks, in spite of the supermoon.
Also, weather forecasts are calling for clear skies during the Perseid viewing period, so as long as you have an unhindered view of the night sky away from city lights, you should be able to see the meteor shower.
Astronomers expect that most of the meteors, up to 100 per hour, should show up on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, somewhere between 2 and 5 a.m.
The Perseids are actually a stream of debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits Earth every 133 years. When the Earth passes through the debris, particles start burning up after they hit the atmosphere, creating shooting "stars" that streak across the sky.
The meteor shower was first reported in 36 A.D., but it wasn't until 1835 that it received its name, because it is believed to be derived from the Perseus constellation.
If you're planning on staying up late to catch the Perseids, NASA is also holding a live web chat on the nights of Aug. 12 and 13. And in case your skies are cloudy, the agency is also putting up a live Ustream view of the skies over Marshall Space Flight Center, weather permitting, so you can watch online.
And to celebrate the annual occasion, Google Doodle artist Sophie Diao commemorated the occasion on the company's website.
"We've doodled them before, but we wanted to bring them back this year to encourage users to learn more about this fantastic celestial event," Diao says.
The new animated Doodle is a short musical video clip that displays a night sky in changing colors while shooting stars streak across the frame.