This weekend will be a great time for heading out of town to the great outdoors, especially at night. This is the weekend of the annual Perseid meteor shower and during the peak nights of August 11/12 and August 12/13; more than 100 meteors (shooting stars) can be seen per hour.
This shower is the result of Earth encountering the gritty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. These meteors will strike the atmosphere at around 60 km per second and cause long streaks which completely vaporize. The average particle size is that of large sand grain but some small pea gravel size meteors can cause bright fireballs that light up the sky and ground.
It is best to head out of town to enjoy the dark skies with the beautiful Milky Way stretching from the south and continuing overhead. The planet Saturn is immersed in the band of star above the constellation Sagittarius. Find yourself a wide open area and bring a lawn chair, snacks and bug spray but respect trespassing on private property and fields.
The planet Mars will keep you company all night long as it low in the south east as the sky darkens. New Moon occurs on the 11th so it will not wash out the sky with its brilliance like other years.
Source and photo credit: Gary Boyle