The night sky is expected to be a busy one on Saturday.
That's when the Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak, running through Sunday morning.
The Perseids, according to NASA, have been watched for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years.
NASA says that each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet's debris, made up of ice and dust. This material, much of it more than 1,000 years old - burns in the Earth's atmosphere to create a spectaculor meteor showers.
The Perseids can be seen all over the sky, but the best viewing opportunities are across the northern hemisphere. NASA says the meteors radiate from the direction of the constellation Perseus — giving the shower its name.
NASA is planning to take full advantage of the meteor shower:
- On the night of Aug. 11-12, astronomer Bill Cooke and his team from the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will answer questions about the 2012 Perseid meteor shower via an "Up All Night" live chat. To join the chat, go to this page and log in. The chat experts will be available to answer questions between the hours of 11 p.m. - 3 a.m. EDT, beginning the evening of Aug. 11 and continuing into the morning of Aug. 12.
- On the night of Aug. 11, a live video/audio feed of the Perseid shower will be embedded on NASA's web site. The camera is mounted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. During daylight, you'll see a dark gray box -- the camera is light-activated and will turn on at dusk. At night you'll see white points, or stars, on a black background.
Here are some tips from StarDate at the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas at Austin:
- What should I pack for meteor watching? Treat meteor watching like you would the 4th of July fireworks. Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.
- How can I best view a meteor shower? Get away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate.
For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to "rain" into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.
After you've escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites.
Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.
- How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors? If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have "dark adapted," and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors.