Stargazers are in for a dazzling display as hundreds of meteors streak across the sky in the annual Perseid meteor shower Thursday night into Friday.
The Perseids appear each summer when Earth’s orbit intersects with debris from the ancient Swift-Tuttle comet. The meteors are called Perseids because they look like shooting stars coming from the Perseus constellation.
This year's meteor shower will be especially spectacular as Earth passes through a more concentrated cloud of space debris, said Rachel Ward-Maxwell, the Ontario Science Centre's astronomy and space researcher.
"Like driving through a rainstorm and the raindrops hit your windshield, the Earth will be driving through this cloud of dust and we may see up to 200 meteors an hour," Ward-Maxwell told CTV News Channel Thursday.
Stargazers will see twice as many meteors during this year’s “outburst” as Jupiter’s gravity nudges Earth closer to the space debris. The last Perseids outburst was in 2009.
“The meteors you’ll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago,” said Bill Cooke, lead of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office, in a statement earlier this month.
Perseid meteors travel at 59 km per second and leave a streak of light as they enter the atmosphere. However, in urban centres “it’s very difficult to see much, you might see one or two in the whole night, ” Jesse Rogerson, an astrophysicist with York University Astronomical Observatory , told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
To get their full effect, Rogerson recommends trying to get away from the bright lights of the city.
“Bring some hot chocolate, a blanket and sit down flat on your back,” Rogerson said. “You also want to wait closer to midnight because you need to be completely out of twilight.”
NASA also suggests allowing about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.
The Perseids will be visible from midnight until dawn.
You can also watch a livestream here from 10 p.m. ET.