Flying shards of comet debris are descending upon Earth's atmosphere again like a cosmic shotgun blast from the Oort cloud.
They're headed our way in the form of themeteor shower, generally one of the most spectacular displays of "shooting stars" each year. (To be more accurate, it's actually like we're traveling through a cloud of cosmic buckshot and our own gravitational magnet is pulling it toward us -- meteor showers are basically the Earth shooting itself in the face.)
Unsatisfactory metaphors aside, here's a quick guide for where to get the best view of the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks Wednesday and Thursday, or how to make the best of the view you've got.
First off, when creating your Perseid viewing plan, it's key to take stock of your three primary enemies when it comes to spotting meteors -- light pollution, weather and our normally charming, which tried to steal the show last year by going all " "
Fortunately, our favorite natural satellite won't present much of a problem, as a new moon is just a few days off, and when the slight waning crescent does appear in the night sky, it will be almost sunrise in most locations. You can check moon and sunrise data for your location here courtesy of the US Naval Observatory.
When it comes to weather, there are, of course, no guarantees, but if you've got overcast conditions at your location, it's worth checking the local radar to see if a short drive might provide clearer skies. If you're in an urban area, you might need to do some driving anyhow to escape the bane of light pollution. It is August and a great time for a camping trip, after all.
Check out one of the light-pollution maps on this page -- they use pretty old data but remain good guides. You'll want to try to get at least to an area indicated in orange or yellow, if not green, blue or clear.
One important caveat here about geography: The Perseid show isn't nearly as dramatic in the Southern Hemisphere, where you'll likely see only about one-third the meteors or less that we'll be treated to here in the North, where up to 100 per hour can be spotted. That doesn't mean there won't be something to see wherever you are. Just about anyone with dark, clear skies should be able to see at least some of the fast, bright-moving meteors known for their long trains.
Once you've found a spot with clear skies for your meteor gazing, you don't have to wait until the total dark dead of night for the show to start. Plan on a late dinner on the back porch to try and catch an evening "earthgrazer." These shooting stars are more rare than the midnight variety, but tend to be more colorful and spectacular if you're lucky enough to see one hugging the horizon as it flares out.
As the inky dark of late night sky sets in, be sure you've got weather-appropriate clothes to stay warm and a lounge chair, mat or hammock that's comfortable because you're going to want to stay awhile to get the most out of the show. It can take up to 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the dark, and then you'll want to hang around for at least 30 minutes to really get the Perseid experience.
When you're all settled in, look for the darkest patch of the wide open sky, relax your eyes and just kind of lazily stare in that general direction. While most Perseids' paths can be traced back to the area of constellation Perseus in general, they zip all over the sky very quickly, so it's better just to aim your retinas at the darkest region and be ready to catch them anywhere.
Oh, and one last thing many of you won't like to read -- leave all phones, tablets and other screens that light up inside. They'll ruin the view and mess with your dark-adjusted eyes. Nobody worth hearing from will be texting you, anyway, because if they're in the know, they'll also be outside sans device taking in the show.
Enjoy! And don't forget to share your best Perseid photos with us on Twitter @crave.