I'm always amazed by all the everyday folks, with no particular skywatching experience, who know about — and look forward to — the Perseid meteor shower each August.This annual event is justifiably well known. First, it's one of the year's best meteor displays, dependably offering more than one "shooting star" per minute under clear, dark skies. Also, showtime begins early, an hour or more before midnight, as soon as the radiant (near the Double Cluster in Perseus) clears the horizon. Finally, the shower is rich in larger-than-average particles shed over the years by its parent comet, 109P/Swift-Tuttle, and these typically deliver a crowd-pleasing salvo of bright, colorful streaks.
This year's maximum is predicted for 6:00 Universal Time on the morning of August 13th. That means you'll see the most meteors on the evening of Friday, August 12th, and early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, August's full Moon occurs just a half day later. So on the night of the shower's maximum you'll be fighting bright Moonlight from dusk until dawn.
But don't let the big, bad Moon scare you off — you'll still see a fair number of the brightest Perseids despite the strong moonlight. And start watching now, on the nights leading up to maximum, for early arrivals. While skywatching from a dark site in Maine last week, I saw a few Perseids each hour. Observing reports reaching the International Meteor Organization show that since then the count has risen to 15 or 20 per hour.