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August's Perseid Meteor Shower May Be Most Spectacular Light Show In Years

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The mother of all meteor showers is about to go down, and it's going to be amazing.

This month's Perseid meteor shower August 11-12 is going to be spectacular, according to scientists at NASA.

Normally, the Perseid shower offers about 60 meteors an hour, but this year scientists expect an outburst to deliver more than twice as many.

"Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of August 11-12," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office. "Under perfect conditions, rates could soar to 200 meteors per hour."

That's a lot of meteors!

The last Perseid outburst was in 2009 and sky watchers said it was the best light show they'd ever seen.

Meteors are bits of dust and debris that burn up as they enter earth's atmosphere and look like streaks of light across the sky. The Perseid meteor shower is Earth's annual encounter with the comet known as Swift-Tuttle.

This year, our planet is on a virtual collision course with three or four of Swift-Tuttle's debris streams. Most years, Earth just grazes the edge, but this year, Jupiter's gravity will bring the dust trails closer, and Earth is going to plow right through the middle, where there's more material."

Cooke says this year's meteors will have "traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth's atmosphere."

If you go to bed early, make sure to set your alarm clocks. The best time to view this year's Perseids is early on Friday, August 12, between midnight and 1 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, after the moon sets. Ditto for August 12-13, when the light display may get even better.

People in the East Bay will have a better chance to see the Perseids since it's expected to be cloudy near the Bay and over the Peninsula. North Bay skies are expected to be mostly clear.

If it's cloudy, or you live near too much light, NASA is doing a live broadcast overnight on USTREAM, beginning at 7 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

[ustream id=6539981 live=1 hwaccel=0 width=480 height=270] writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.


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