Shooting stars to light up the sky Tuesday night thanks to the Perseid meteor shower — here’s how to watch

A slew of shooting stars this week will give us plenty to make a wish on.

The Perseid meteor shower, when the Earth flies through a batch of debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, is set to dazzle Tuesday overnight into Wednesday.

The best viewing time is in the predawn hours, when it is darkest. A quarter-moon will mean a bit of extra light, but experts say it should not obscure them entirely, and that plenty will still be visible — including the occasional fireball. Last year the shower struggled against the light of a full moon, so this year can only be better.

Earth is now making its annual pass through the densest part of the stream of the comet’s remnants, particles it leaves during its 133-year trip around the sun. They lie in the comet’s orbital path, and Earth crosses that path at the same time every year.

To see them, go to a dark area away from city lights, such as a beach, ballfield or park. Since meteor watching is an exercise in patience, be prepared to sit outside for a few hours, suggests. It can take a half hour for one’s eyes to adjust to the dark.

Aim your gaze up and to the north, recommends. The best viewing is in the dark hours before dawn. The radiant point — the place they appear to emanate from — is highest at dawn, says, which is when the meteors will rain down from overhead. However, they are visible all over the sky. It’s not necessary to watch for them from the radiant point.

Moonlight will compete, but not obscure, the show. It is possible to try and catch meteors before moonrise around midnight, though they’ll be low in the sky. However that gives sky watchers a shot at catching an Earthgrazer, “an elongated, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky,” describes, calling them “rare but most memorable.”

Even though they’re about as small as a grain of sand, the shards flare brightly as they burn up in our atmosphere, hitting it at 37 miles per second, says. The Perseids in particular are known for flashing various colors. This is because they are rich in sodium, while some contain magnesium, iron, carbon and silicon, according to The Washington Post.

While most meteors are visible during that peak time, they can also be seen, albeit in non-shower proportions, before or after that — Wednesday, and even Thursday.

Swift-Tuttle itself spends most of its time in the outer reaches of the solar system, NASA notes. It last visited the inner solar system in 1992.

Comet Swift-Tuttle was discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, according to NASA, and three years later Giovanni Schiaparelli realized that the comet was the source of the Perseids.

There are earlier references too, as Earthsky noted. The earliest account comes from a Chinese record dating back to 36 A.D., Earthsky said. Chinese Japanese and Korean records from the eighth through 11th centuries are rife with references to the shower.

The Perseids also show up in ancient Greek lore, commemorating “the time when the god Zeus visited the mortal maiden Danaë in the form of a shower of gold,” Earthsky said. “Zeus and Danaë became the parents of Perseus the Hero, from whose constellation the Perseid meteors radiate.”