Phil Plait over at the Bad Astronomy blog fills us in on the 12 things you need to watch the Perseid meteors Sunday night:
Sunday night August 12 is the peak of the annual and much beloved Perseid meteor shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth gets to a point in its orbit crossed by the orbit of debris from a comet. Comets are basically big ol’ chunks of rock and gravel held together by ice. When the comet gets near the Sun, the ice melts, and debris gets loose. Over time it spreads out along the orbit of the comet. If that orbit crosses ours, then we plow into the debris, which burns up in our atmosphere. Voila! Meteors!
Since this happens when the Earth goes past the intersection of the two orbits, it happens around the same time every year. The Perseids peak when the Earth passes through the debris left over from the comet Swift-Tuttle. The chunks are relatively dense in the debris field, so we get a lot of meteors, typically 60 or so per hour, maybe more. Only a couple of showers do better (the Geminids in December are good, for example) and since the Perseids peak in mid-August, they are a favorite for northern hemisphere folks.
Even better, there is a new moon this year, so the bright moonlight won’t wash out faint meteors. You’ll see more if you go out and look!
No I’m not going to reproduce his list, you need some reason to go visit his excellent blog after all, but the list isn’t overly complicated. He also mentions that while the peak is spread out over the weekend so if you can’t stay up late Sunday then tonight and Saturday should also be pretty good nights to check it out.