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The Showstopping Perseid Meteor Shower Is Here

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

It's August. For space enthusiasts and sky watchers, that means one thing.

JACKIE FAHERTY: You can step outside, look up at the nighttime sky and see some fireballs.

ELLIOTT: Those fireballs come from the Perseid meteor shower.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Even NASA says it's the best meteor shower of the year. And Jackie Faherty, who's an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, does not disagree.

FAHERTY: Oh, yeah. This is my favorite of all the meteor showers.

ELLIOTT: She's been a fan for years.

FAHERTY: You never know when one of these fireballs is going to shake you to your core.

KING: So if you can spare the time late at night, head for a rooftop or open space and just look up.

FAHERTY: I can tell you that you - maybe you'll get one a minute, like, the average. Or maybe you're going to get a really bright one or a really nice colorful one depending on the chemistry of the dust.

KING: Faherty says sometimes you get really lucky.

FAHERTY: The unexpected thing is what you should be hoping that you're going to get, which is a nice big bright one that's going to outshine all the stars - that's going to look like it's going to scare you.

ELLIOTT: Although it's a rare spectacle that's completely safe.

FAHERTY: All of the things that are burning up in the upper, upper atmosphere - like, you know, higher than planes fly - are flecks of dust which can burn up so bright that it causes you to react with excitement and joy 'cause it looks like fireworks. But there's nothing large coming down at you. We're not getting hit with a bunch of big rocks.

ELLIOTT: Faherty is a pro. So what's her best advice?

FAHERTY: The one thing that I always recommend that everybody bring with them when you watch a meteor shower is patience.

KING: And if quiet contemplation isn't really your thing, Faherty suggests bringing your friends or family.

FAHERTY: It's not going to be like - oh, I'm sorry; I was so engaged in our conversation, I didn't notice that gigantic fireball that just streaked across my face. You'll catch it.

KING: And, she says, you will not regret it.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVOCATIV'S "START OF SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.