The stars are falling! Watch clear view of Perseid Meteor shower tonight

World Today

Stars seen as streaks from a long camera exposure are seen behind Arnotegui Hermitage, in Obanos, northern Spain, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the “tears of Saint Lawrence”, since 10 August is the date of that saint’s martyrdom. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

People looking for a shooting star to wish upon may find Wednesday overnight to be a dream come true.

Celestial timing will help people see more of the oldest meteor shower known to Earth, the Perseids, when they peak 3 a.m. local Thursday, according to astronomers.

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That’s “because the moon is almost new and there’s no moonlight to mess with the show,” said NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke. The last time the Perseids (pur-SEE’-uhdz) peaked with little moonlight was 2007.

If the weather is good, expect one shooting star a minute, maybe more, said Cooke.

The skies will be clear for an unusually large section of the United States, said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters. Much of the East, Midwest and far West will be almost cloudless. But the forecast isn’t as nice for Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

Watch NASA’s ScienceCast on the 2015 Perseid Meteors:

The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are actually pieces of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Every August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s orbital debris. This debris field — mostly created hundreds of years ago — consists of bits of ice and dust shed from the comet which burn up in Earth’s atmosphere at more than 133,000 mph to create one of the premier meteor showers of the year, NASA said.

The best way to watch is to lie down and look up — no telescopes needed. The Perseids streak across the sky from many directions, with theoretical rates as high as 100 per hour.

Meteor showers just touch people in a special way, said planetary scientist Sheila Kanani of the Royal Astronomical Society in London.

“For a lot of people, it’s a make-a-wish kind of mentality,” Kanani said. “There’s something quite romantic about a meteor shower.”

If your skies aren’t clear or there’s too much light, NASA is live broadcasting the Perseids from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. eastern with Cooke and other experts explaining what’s happening in the skies. Anyone can tweet questions to @NASA_Marshall with the hashtag #askNASA about the Persid.

Story by the Associated Press