From the NASA website:
July 31, 2009: Earth is entering a stream of dusty debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Although the shower won’t peak until August 11th and 12th, the show is already getting underway.
“Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on August 12th. Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour.”
For sky watchers in North America, the watch begins after nightfall on August 11th and continues until sunrise on the 12th. Veteran observers suggest the following strategy: Unfold a blanket on a flat patch of ground. (Note: The middle of your street is not a good choice.) Lie down and look up. Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower’s radiant in the constellation Perseus. Get away from city lights if you can.
I know I’ll be heading out of the city for this!
Here’s a little background on the Perseids, which have been observed for over 2000 years:
The Perseids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle. The Perseids are so called because the point they appear to come from, called the radiant, lies in the constellation Perseus. Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a meteor stream. The stream in this case is called the Perseid cloud and it stretches along the orbit of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. The cloud consists of particles ejected by the comet as it passed by the Sun. Most of the dust in the cloud today is approximately a thousand years old. However, there is also a relatively young filament of dust in the stream that boiled off the comet in 1862. The rate of meteors originating from this filament is much higher than for the older part of the stream.