The Perseid meteor shower will peak on the evening of 12 Aug., and could provide skywatchers with frequent shooting stars throughout the event. However, the moon will be just past full, the worst time of all for people hoping to view shooting stars.

The meteor shower can be seen, starting just before midnight, for those people in a location with a low horizon to the east. At this time, the Moon will be just lightly east of due south. Early morning risers are able to glimpse the best views of meteor showers, as the center of the display moves toward the south and rises higher in the sky.

Each August, the Perseid display is one of several annual meteor showers seen on Earth. These regular events are formed by the Earth crashing into a trail of debris left behind by a comet. This particular shower is caused by debris from comet Swift-Tuttle.

Telescopes or binoculars are not needed, nor are the particularly useful, for viewing displays of shooting stars. Amateur skywatchers can witness the display using nothing but a comfortable place to sit or lie down.

Blankets should be brought outside for observation, as well as food and drinks. Observers will need to allow their eyes to adjust to the dark before seeing the dimmest of the meteors streaking across the sky. To look around and see objects without ruining night vision, skywatchers can tape a piece of red cellophane or similar material over a flashlight or light on their phones. This provides illumination that will not ruin dark-adapted eyesight.

Under ideal conditions, it may be possible to see between 30 and 40 meteors each hour, although the annual shower has been known to deliver meteors at two to three times that rate.

Shooting stars are created when tiny pieces of rock or metal from space streak through our atmosphere, heating as they fall. Most of these pieces are roughly the size of apple seeds. However, larger bits of debris also fall, and can create bright fireballs that can light up the night sky. It is impossible to predict, but these events may occur during the peak of the Perseid shower this year.

Photographs of falling stars can be made with cameras having the ability to take long exposures. Set up on a tripod, these pictures can reveal small lines of stars caused by the rotation of the Earth, as well as random, longer streaks of shooting stars cutting across the sky.

Amateur skywatchers can also assist NASA astronomers in collecting data on meteor showers, using a phone application.

"With Meteor Counter, you can easily capture meteor observations with an innovative 'piano key' interface. As you tap the keys, Meteor Counter records critical data for each meteor: time, magnitude, latitude, and longitude. Afterward, these data are automatically uploaded to NASA researchers for analysis," developers wrote on their Google Play page.

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