A Perseid Meteor streaks across the evening sky during the August 2008 meteor shower. Photo by Nick Ares.
If you want something to do tonight go out and find a dark place to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. The Perseids are bits of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, which has laid down several streams of debris, each in a slightly different location, over the centuries as it orbits the sun. Every August, Earth passes through these debris streams, which spread out over time.
The best time to watch is between midnight and dawn Wednesday. Forecasters say the best stretch could come between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. ET (1-2 a.m. PT), which would be after daybreak in Europe. Some Perseids might be visible late Tuesday night, and Wednesday night into Thursday morning could prove worthwhile, too.
Astronomers predict up to 200 meteors per hour will be visible in short bursts of up to 15 minutes or so. Many of the fainter meteors will not be visible due to moonlight or light pollution in urban areas. Typically meteors are visible every couple of minutes during butsts, and fewer during lulls.