Although the actual peak date of the Perseid meteor shower will be 12-13 August (as mentioned in our August Astronomy Events post) the best time to watch the Perseid meteor shower might actually be today – Wednesday 10 August, during the dawn hours into Thursday.
At their peak, the Perseids commonly produce 50 or more meteors per hour – when the moon is out-of-the-way. This year, however, the full moon will shine from dusk till dawn on the peak night wiping out all but the brightest Perseid meteors. With this in mind working around the moon to optimize the view of the Perseids (summertime’s premier meteor shower) is probably the best call.
The best time will probably come in the next 24 hours dependent on your location.
At mid-northern latitudes in Europe the moon will set between 1am and 2am. The moon’s precise setting time, however, depends on where you reside within your time zone! Checkout the moonrise section at timeandate.com to check what is best for you.
Generally, you see the greatest number of Perseids in the hours before dawn (even on a totally moonless night). Given a dark, open sky away from pesky city lights, you might see 15-20 Perseid meteors per hour.
Although the predawn sky may present the best view of the 2011 Perseid shower, that won’t stop die-hard meteor enthusiasts from watching the Perseids starting now and throughout the weekend!