The most popular shower of the year is here, and we don't mean the familiar drizzle. We're talking about the Perseid meteor shower, which is visible every year when Earth passes through the trail of debris left by the Swift-Tuttle Comet. This year the most visible days are projected to be August 11–13, and NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke says the U.S. can expect to see as many as 60 to 70 meteors per hour during the shower's peak. This year is going to be especially striking because of the new moon, painting the perfect backdrop for the late-summer nature show.
The Perseid shower is also known for fireballs—especially bright meteors—that leave long wakes of light and color in the sky as they sail through the Earth's atmosphere. NASA recommends heading out to see the show during predawn hours, but meteor streaks may appear as early as 10 pm; see an updated list of activity here. Greg Scheiderer of the Seattle Astronomical Society recommends finding the darkest place possible for the best experience, although the show will likely still be visible from your front porch, deck, or city rooftop. Keep eyes peeled for Mars and Saturn, expected to make an appearance, and catch a glimpse of Venus and Jupiter before they set before 11pm.
Make a weekend out of it in the mountains, like at a fire lookout; there's a white wooden cabin sitting at the peak of Mount Pilchuck and the Mount Fremont Lookout, built in the 1930s. Or head to the North Cascades, overlooking famously turquoise Diablo Lake near Colonial Creek South Campground. State wildfires may fill the air with hazy smoke, so check air quality maps before making plans.