British Columbia

Meteor shower to light up skies

If the sky is clear, most Canadians will be treated to a celestial light show tonight and tomorrow night.

2013 Perseid meteor shower will peak overnight Aug. 11-12

A Perseid meteor flashes across the constellation Andromeda on Aug. 12, 1997, in this eight-minute exposure taken in Florence Junction, Ariz. (SkyandTelescope.com, Rick Scott and Joe Orman/Associated Press)

If the sky is clear, most Canadians will be treated to a celestial light show tonight and tomorrow night.

The Perseid meteor shower, which produces more fireballs than any other annual meteor shower, can be viewed early- to mid-August every year when the earth passes through debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle.

The debris burns up when it hits the atmosphere producing what are commonly known as shooting stars.

With the Perseids, people are particularly likely to see spectacular meteors that are as bright or brighter than the planets Jupiter or Venus, NASA says.

The meteor rate will be highest before sunrise when the constellation Perseus, where the meteors appear to originate, is high in the sky.

In rural and remote areas where the sky is dark, sky watchers may be able to see more than 100 meteors per hour, although a rate of 50 to 60 is more typical.

Rob Appleton, executive director of the H.R. MacMillian Space Centre in Vancouver, has some tips for hopeful sky-watchers.

"If you can just get away from the lights, get away from the light pollution, you'll get a great show because there's 50 to 100 meteors per hour coming down," he said. "So if you're patient, and once they start coming, they come all night until about six in the morning."

The meteor shower's peak this year will occur around mid-day on Aug. 12 in North America, which means the best times to view the meteors will be the early mornings of Aug. 12 and Aug. 13.