As the earth passes through the path of comet Temple-Tuttle, a meteor shower ensues. And, it's that time of year!
The comet, named after the two people who discovered it independently of one another (Ernst Tempel on Dec. 19, 1865 and by Horace Parnell Tuttle on Jan. 6, 1866), leaves behind a trail of rocks and other debris as it makes its way around the sun.
The comet takes 33 years to make one full revolution around the sun.
As the peak approaches, on the night of August 12th and the morning of August 13th, up to 100 meteors per hour will be visible in dark-sky locations.
The Perseids are so-named because they appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus.
The Perseid meteor shower is the most famous of the calendar year, partly because it is always reliable and also because it occurs in the Northern Hemisphere's summer, making it possible to view the show without braving the cold.
The 2012 Perseid meteor shower will be extra special. The moon will be at a minimum, a waning crescent. So, there won't be lots of moonlight to dim the streaming meteors.
Observers can generally just lay on their backs in a dark location and wait for the meteors. However, the graphic below will add some perspective. The meteors will appear to originate in the northeast sky.
Figure 1: The meteors will radiate from the northeast sky.
Figure 2: The dark blue line shows the path of comet Temple-Tuttle. The red starburst is the position of the earth.