Everything you need to know about this weekend's meteor shower extravaganza

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This happens every year on a very predictable schedule, beginning about July 17 until around September 1, with the peak in August, according to Sky & Telescope The annual shower takes its name from the fact that the meteors appear to emanate from around the constellation Perseus (near the very recognizable "Lazy W" of Cassiopeia).

Active from July 17 to August 24, the Perseids are particles released from a comet named 109P/Swift-Tuttle, flying off its tail as it journeys deep into the inner solar system. Last year, as many as 200 meteors per hour blazed away. Still, the Perseids is considered runner-up in number and brilliance only to the Geminid shower in December.

Fireballs are brighter than the planet Venus, and a Perseid fireball can light up the ground like a brief spotlight during the best conditions.

The comet sheds debris that can range from the size of a pinhead to a half-dollar, Cooke said. A (presumably second-rate) repeat won't roll around for another 96 years, they say. It's fairly consistent each year, producing a rich and steady stream of meteors that are fast and bright in the sky, and that leave persistent trains behind them.

An outburst of Perseid meteors lights up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image. The brightness of the moon will make it harder to see some meteors produced by the shower.

"The real trick is keeping your eyes glued to the sky", Berman said. Face east if you have a clear view in that direction, and look about halfway up the sky from the horizon.

Whether South Florida's skies will cooperate is another thing. A half to a three-quarters moon Saturday night may interfere with the view, and forecasters are calling for mostly cloudy skies Saturday night into Sunday morning in the Omaha area. Saturday won't be quite that bad, but 80 percent isn't too far off.

To watch it, head to a dark location and look northeast beginning at about 11 p.m. Saturday.

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