When and Where to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

The Perseid meteor showers, one of the most spectacular celestial phenomena of the year, reach their peak this week and will be visible to the naked eye at about midnight.

The meteor showers began in mid-July and will peak between August 11 and August 13. Unlike last year, when the moon's light made it difficult to watch them, catching a glimpse of the meteors this time will be easier as the moon is in its waxing crescent phase.

Here's what you need to know.

What Time Is the Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight?

The showers can be seen for approximately 10 hours, from around 9 p.m. local time in the U.S.

According to the American Meteor Society, the best time to watch the Perseids, is between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time, just before the break of dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky.

Trying to watch Perseids before midnight is trickier as the radiant is low in the Northern Hemisphere before midnight. The more the radiant rises in the sky, the more meteors will be available to see.

What Are Meteor Showers?

In layman's terms, they are known as a "shooting stars." When space debris burns up at the Earth's atmosphere after traveling at high speed, it generates a streak of light visible from Earth, which is described as meteor.

More specifically, meteor showers are celestial events during which meteors appear in the night sky, seemingly originating from a single point known as the radiant.

As far as the Perseids shower is concerned, its radiant is located in the constellation Perseus, which is named after a hero in ancient Greek mythology.

Where to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower

The best way to catch a glimpse of the Perseids is to find a dark location away from light pollution with as wide-open a view of the sky as possible. Unlike with some other astrological phenomena, watching the Perseids doesn't require any particular equipment.

"These 'shooting stars' can appear anywhere and everywhere in the sky—you don't have to look toward the radiant to see them," said Diana Hannikainen, Sky & Telescope's observing editor. "So the best direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest, usually straight up."

How Often Do Meteor Showers Occur?

According to NASA, approximately 30 meteor showers occur each year that are visible to observers on Earth and some of them have been around for longer than a century.

The Perseid meteor shower, for example, was first observed about 2,000 years ago and recorded in China, the agency said.

The Perseid shower normally begins in mid-July and runs for just over a month. This year the phenomenon began on July 17 and will continue through August 26, with the peak coming between August 11 and August 13.

Up to 12,000 meteors, some of them size of a piece of dust, move around the Earth's atmosphere on any given night, according to NASA's radars.

Perseid Meteors Shower
Meteors along the Milky Way in the sky on August 5 in Porma Lake, Leon, Spain. Perseids can be seen between July 17 and August 26 of each year. The optimal day is August 11. Samuel de Roman/Getty Images