Peaking late Friday through early Saturday, this year's cosmic fireworks were somewhat dampened by the glare of a full moon. But the height of the Perseids still offered a crowd-pleasing sight for many people worldwide.
"The Perseids are almost always a really good show, with usually on average about 50 to 60 meteors an hour during the peak," Jim Todd, staff astronomer and planetarium manager at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, told National Geographic News last week.
Todd predicted that this year—despite the moon—stargazers would see around 10 to 20 meteors an hour during the peak. He also suggested going out on any clear night immediately before or after peak, when up to a couple dozen shooting stars an hour may be visible. The shower is officially expected to end on August 24.
With reporting by Andrew Fazekas.
Photograph courtesy Ronald Garan, Jr., NASA
Perseids' Stony Onlookers
Natural rock formations shaped roughly like human figures seem to stare at the heavens during this year's Perseid meteor shower in a picture taken August 13. Hundreds of the stone "stargazers" stand in the village of Kuklici, about 49 miles (80 kilometers) east of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.
In general, meteors are produced when small pieces of space dust impact Earth's atmosphere at high speeds: "The streak of light we see is this debris burning up because of friction with the atmosphere," the Oregon science museum's Todd said. In the case of the Perseids, the grains that make meteors are leftover pieces from the comet Swift-Tuttle.
Photograph by Ognen Teofilovski, Reuters
The streak of a Perseid meteor seems to cut through the blade of a wind turbine in a picture taken August 13 in Kavala, Greece.
As with other annual meteor showers, the Perseids are named after the constellation from which they appear to radiate—in this case, the constellation Perseus. (Take a Perseid meteor shower quiz.)
Layered limestone formations stand guard as a Perseid meteor streaks over El Torcal de Antequera, a nature reserve in southern Spain, on August 13.
To get the best views of the Perseids this year, the Oregon science museum's Todd recommended heading to areas free from light pollution and facing toward the constellation Perseus, from which the meteors seem to originate.
"Your best chance for spotting the meteors will be to move away from the urban city lights and view meteors in dark rural locations in the early morning hours, when the radiant is highest in your local sky," he said.
Photograph by Jon Nazca, Reuters
Meteor Shower Moon Gazing
A sky-watcher in Spain's El Torcal de Antequera nature reserve uses binoculars to gaze at the moon during the Perseid meteor shower on August 13. Glare from a full moon washed out some of the meteors during this year's peak.
However, even before the peak, sky-watchers around the world were reporting an average of 10 to 15 Perseids an hour, including surges of activity featuring brighter-than-average meteors, called fireballs, racing across the sky.
And there's still a chance to see some streaks as the Perseids shower winds down.
"If you don't see any meteors for a while, don't be discouraged," Todd said. "It's important to remember that sometimes meteors come in dramatic bursts rather than steadily throughout the night."