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Skywatchers gear up for Perseid meteor onslaught

This annual crowd-pleaser -- one of the most spectacular sky shows you'll ever see -- is about to hit its peak.

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the ruins of the Cook Bank building in the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nev. Getty Images
For at least 2,000 years, sky watchers have awaited the arrival of the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event that like clockwork, occurs between late July and early August with a peak display generating 60 or more meteors per hour.

The annual display is known as the Perseid shower because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. It's a result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years.

Unfortunately, this year the Perseids are competing with a full moon. Still, you should be able to get a good glimpse at what has always been a dazzling crowd-pleaser. By the evening of August 12, astronomers expect the meteors will shoot across the sky at a rate of 50 to 80 per hour. Your last chance to see the Perseids will be August 22. Then, it's wait until next year.