Perseid meteor shower: When is the best time to watch?

In this photo taken with long shutter speed, a meteor sparks, lower right, while entering the earth's atmosphere behind an olive tree during the Perseids meteor shower, in Fanos village, central Greece, on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013.
AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

(CBS News) When should you watch the Perseid meteor shower for the best view? The best time is between 12 a.m. ET and dawn on Tuesday morning, Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and planetarium director of The Franklin Institute, explained on "CBS This Morning" Monday.

But for those of us that can't stay up that late, Pitts said you can start early -- as soon as the sky gets dark. "There's no reason why you can't," he said. "You'll see some without much difficulty."

Stargazers can expect "bright streaks of light zipping across the skies," Pitts said, adding, "some of them might be very bright and they are quite fast."

"(Meteors) happen 40 to 60 miles an hour up in the Earth's atmosphere and they're only the size of sand grains, so we really don't have very much to worry about in this case," Pitt said. "It's just a nice view."

Meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere at 133,000 miles per hour and can be as big as a golf ball.

The meteor shower, Pitt explained, occurs when the Earth's orbit intersects with the orbit of a comet called Swift-Tuttle and its dust stretched all along its path. As the Earth comes into that orbital path, the Earth will go through those dust particles, creating the meteor shower.

For more on meteors -- including the devastating effects of some in Earth's history -- watch Pitts' full interview above.