When it comes to meteor showers, we have these dazzling pictures in our minds of seeing streaks of light appear all over the sky: rapidly, brightly, and profusely. Yet in real life, many of us have had experiences that pale in comparison, where we might spend an entire hour outside only to see five (or even fewer) faint meteors. Unless conditions are really right, meteor showers can be a tremendous disappointment.
But during the peak of this year’s Perseids, from August 11–13, you’ll have a chance to see the best meteor shower in years. They should be rapid, bright, and relatively frequent. And most importantly, the skies should cooperate. Here’s the science of how it works, and what you should do to make the most of it.