The Perseid meteor shower peaks during the night of August 12 to 13, promising an impressive display of shooting stars to observers throughout much of the northern hemisphere. This is an excellent opportunity to witness an astronomical event that does not require any special equipment or scientific knowledge. 

Often, displays of shooting stars are drowned out by light from the moon. However, this year, our natural satellite will not be visible on the night of August 12, so this year's display could be one of the most dazzling meteor showers in years. The last time the Perseid meteor shower coincided with a full moon was 2007. 

Meteor showers are caused when the Earth, orbiting around the sun, encounters a trail of debris, usually left by a comet. In the case of the Perseids, the rubble that creates the shower is produced by the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years.  

"Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's orbital debris. This debris field – mostly created hundreds of years ago – consists of bits of ice and dust shed from the comet which burn up in Earth's atmosphere to create one of the premier meteor showers of the year," NASA officials report.

This annual display has been recorded by historians, religious scholars and scientists for roughly 2,000 years. 

In order to get the best views of the shower, observers should head to a dark area under clear skies in the pre-dawn hours of August 13. The ideal location would offer widespread views of the sky to the south and east. The meteor shower will appear to be centered on the constellation of Perseus. Viewers who do not wish to wake up before dawn can see the show any time after 10 p.m. local time on the night of August 12. However, fewer shooting stars are likely to be seen at that time, compared with pre-dawn hours. 

Observers should look to the east earlier at night, and more toward the south as dawn approaches. A comfortable chair makes watching the display easier as well as a more comfortable experience. It is always a good idea to bring along drinks and snacks for the event as well. Skygazers should bring along a light with a red LED, or a flashlight with a piece of red cellophane taped over the light. This will provide a chance for light without ruining night vision. 

For people experiencing cloudy weather or those under the interfering glow of city light, this display of shooting stars will be simulcast live on NASA TV, as well as the space agency's channel on Ustream. 

Astronomers believe up to 100 meteors an hour could be visible during the 2015 display.

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