The Perseid meteor shower is already underway. And even though it doesn't peak until the nights of August 11-12 (Saturday night) or 12-13 (Sunday night), it is already producing the fireball meteors that the Perseids are famous for.

The Perseids are produced when the earth moves through the debris left behind by the Comet Swift Tuttle between July 17 to August 24. But it moves through the densest debris between August 11 and August 13.

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Usually, on these peak nights it will produce 60-70 meteors an hour, but in bursts the rate can go up to 200 an hour. The Perseids are rich in fireball meteors that are very bright and often leave a trail across the sky that will last for a second or two.

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The Perseid meteor shower is named after the constellation Perseus because if you trace their paths backward they appear to be coming from the area of the sky. However, the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky.

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The best viewing will be with the darkest sky you can find. Find a spot where you can lay back and comfortably observe as much of the sky as possible. No equipment is necessary. The darker the sky the more meteors you will see.

The best time to observe any meteor shower is after midnight (or after 1 a.m. if you're on daylight time), because then you are on the leading edge of the earth in its orbit around the sun and it sweeps up more meteor - just like bugs on your windshield on a freeway. This year the moon is only a crescent and sets before midnight making the sky even darker.

Of course, the one other thing you need to view the meteors is clear skies, and, as usual in the Northwest, it will be a challenge. Right now it looks like Saturday night may be iffy. There will still be clouds and a few showers from the weak weather system that moves in during the day Saturday. But Sunday night looks promising. Skies should be clearing and by the time we hit that peak viewing time after 1 AM it should be partly cloudy to clear. AND the smoke haze should be mostly gone,