Perseids to ignite across skies late this week in one of best meteor viewing opportunities of 2016

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Don't miss the Perseid Meteor Shower!

BY: AccuWeather.com Staff

As Earth passes through the debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle late this week, the glowing trains of dying meteors will streak across the night sky, marking the annual return of the Perseid meteor shower.

"It is typically the second richest shower after the Geminids every December," Slooh Astronomer and The Old Farmers Almanac Astronomy Editor Bob Berman said. "[The Perseids] offer very fast meteors, and about 30 percent of them leave behind lingering trains. The number of meteors increase quite a bit after 12 and 1 a.m. when the 'radiant,' or the place in the sky the meteors emanate from, rises in the northeast."

The shower's peak will occur on Thursday night, but Friday night will also offer a good opportunity for those looking to experience the Perseids, according to NASA.

Discovered during the American Civil War by astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet colliding with the planet and burning up in the atmosphere provides the spectacular light show, but cloudy skies might block the view for some stargazers.

Look back at the Persid meteor shower in 2015:

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Perseid meteor shower 2015
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Perseid meteor shower 2015
A long exposure image showing an aeroplane passing in the sky during the Perseids meteor shower over the remains of St. Ilia Roman early Christian basilica dated back to the 5th6th century AD near the town of Pirdop, early on August 12, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year in August when the Earth passes through the debris and dust of the Swift-Tuttle comet. The Perseid meteor shower -- an annual display of natural fireworks -- should be particularly spectacular this year, with extra-dark skies expected to create optimal stargazing conditions, astronomers said on August 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV (Photo credit should read NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images)
SPRING MOUNTAINS NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, NV - AUGUST 13: A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky above desert pine trees on August 13, 2015 in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Nevada. The annual display, known as the Perseid shower because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky, is a result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view of the stars above Sycamore Gap prior to the Perseid Meteor Shower above Hadrian's Wall near Bardon Mill, England, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. The annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on Wednesday night, but much of the UK is facing cloudy conditions. The best places to view the event is in northern England and Scotland. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
A falling star crosses the night sky behind illuminated windmills near Gemuend, western Germany, during the peak in activity of the annual Perseids meteor shower on August 13, 2015. The Perseids meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / DPA / OLIVER BERG +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images)
A falling star (L) crosses the night sky near Gemuend, western Germany, as the trace of an airplane (R) also can be seen during the peak in activity of the annual Perseids meteor shower on August 13, 2015. The Perseids meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / DPA / OLIVER BERG +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read OLIVER BERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Stars seen as streaks from a long camera exposure are seen behind a silhouette of a Spanish fighting bull, conceived decades ago as highway billboards in Cordoba, Spain, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 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/Manu Fernandez)
A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
ONDREJOV, CZECH REPUBLIC - AUGUST 12: Perseid meteor (L) streaks across the sky over the radar near the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Science of the Czech Republic on August 12, 2015 in Ondrejov, Czech Republic. The annual display, known as the Perseid shower, because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky, is the result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
A falling star crosses the night sky over Halle / Saale, eastern Germany, during the peak in activity of the annual Perseids meteor shower on August 13, 2015. The Perseids meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / DPA / HENDRIK SCHMIDT +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read HENDRIK SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A meteor passes across the sky during the peak in activity of the annual Perseids meteor shower in the village of Rufforth, near York, northern England on August 12, 2015. The Perseids meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
A long exposure image showing a Perseids meteor (L) streaking across the night sky over the remains of St. Ilia Roman early Christian basilica dated back to the 5th6th century AD near the town of Pirdop, early on August 12, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year in August when the Earth passes through the debris and dust of the Swift-Tuttle comet. The Perseid meteor shower -- an annual display of natural fireworks -- should be particularly spectacular this year, with extra-dark skies expected to create optimal stargazing conditions, astronomers said on August 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV (Photo credit should read NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Clouds partly cover the star speckled night sky over Sieversdorf, eastern Germany, on August 11, 2015. The peak of the Perseid meteor shower is expected for the night to Thursday, August 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / DPA / PATRICK PLEUL +++ GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read PATRICK PLEUL/AFP/Getty Images)
A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
Stars and meteor streaks are seen behind a destroyed house, near Tuzla, Bosnia, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. The annual Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Stars, clouds and storm seen as streaks from a long camera exposure are seen behind a Stations of The Cross, in Ujue, northern Spain, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015. The meteor shower is expected to peak Wednesday night into Thursday morning. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
A photographer prepares to take pictures of the annual Perseid meteor shower in the village of Crissolo, near Cuneo, in the Monviso Alps region of northern Italy, on August 13, 2015. The Perseid meteor shower occurs every year when the Earth passes through the cloud of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)
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"One of the best things about the Perseids meteor shower is the fact it occurs during the summer months across the Northern Hemisphere," AccuWeather Meteorologist and astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel said. "Summer tends to feature more clear skies than the colder seasons."

The most likely area to have cloud cover will be the Gulf Coast, he added.

"A storm that will likely capture headlines with flooding this week will slowly move west across the Gulf Coast," Samuhel said. "This feature will likely bring clouds from Louisiana east through Florida, including Mississippi, Alabama and perhaps Georgia."

(Photo courtesy of AccuWeather)

Meanwhile, a frontal boundary will be stalled across the Great Lakes and Northeast, he added, stating that clouds should generally clear during the night.

"Remember, the best viewing will be after midnight, when the moon sets," he said. "Much of the rest of the country has a good chance of seeing meteors. However, the immediate West Coast will have low clouds becoming more widespread as the night wears on."

NASA reported that a Perseid outburst may occur this year, providing sky-watchers with double normal rates, around 200 meteors per hour, on the night of Aug. 11 into the morning hours of Aug. 12.

"The Perseids and Geminids are by far the best showers - until 2099, when we'll get an even richer display of the Leonids," Berman said. "Other annual showers are minor, meaning they offer only a quarter the meteor rate."

When it comes to the ideal viewing environment, the darker the better, Berman added.

"There are more faint meteors than medium ones, and more medium than bright so a bright background city sky will eliminate nearly all of them," he said. "The darker the suburb, the more you'll see. This is a good time to visit those friends in the country."

In addition to dealing with light pollution this year, there will also be unwanted moonlight, Berman added.

Most meteors will be visible in the predawn hours between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on the night of Aug. 11-12, according to Berman. For those going out to view on the night of Aug. 12-13, check the skies between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

"That's when you get a double whammy - no moonlight, and the most meteors in any case," Berman said.

With so many meteors visible, Berman said you can search anywhere across the night sky, but offered some advice on from where they'll emanate.

"They radiate from the northeast and mostly streak upward before midnight, after which they mostly cross the sky sideways," he said. "They streak away from Perseus, but looking toward Perseus where they streak from lets you see mostly shorter streaks, since these are the ones coming straight at you."

For 2016, the next super-shower is the Geminids, but the moon will unfortunately be near full and will interfere, according to Berman.

"Next year is much better all around. So this year, for a truly maximum meteor spectacle, it's the Perseids alone," Berman said.

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