NASA: Perseid Meteor Shower to be extra awesome tonight

In this photo taken with long exposure, a Perseid meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower in El Escorial, outside Madrid, in the early hours of Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. Some Catholics refer to the Perseids as the "tears of Saint Lawrence" since Aug. 10 is the date of that saint's martyrdom. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Shooting stars are expected to light up the night sky for the Perseid Meteor Shower.

The Perseid show up every year in August. This year, Earth may be in for a closer encounter than usual with the comet trails that result in meteor shower, setting the stage for a spectacular display late Thursday night and early Friday morning.

“Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of Aug. 11-12,” said Bill Cooke with NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama. “Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour.”

According to NASA, the Perseid meteors travel at 132,000 miles per hour, 500 times faster than the fastest car in the world. At that speed, even a smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light when it collides with Earth’s atmosphere. Peak temperatures can reach anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit as they speed across the sky.

The Perseids pose no danger to Earth. Most burn up 50 miles above our planet. But an outburst could mean trouble for spacecraft.

“Here’s something to think about. The meteors you’ll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago,” said Cooke. “And they’ve traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth’s atmosphere.”

How to watch

The best way to watch is to go outside between midnight and dawn on the morning of August 12. Allow about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.

For stargazers experiencing cloudy or light-polluted skies, a live broadcast of the Perseid meteor shower will be available via Ustream overnight on Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 12-13, beginning at 9 p.m. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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