TULSA, OK -- Oklahoma's cloud-free skies this week are contributing to more than just high temperatures during the day; they're providing an unobstructed view of the Perseid meteor shower at night.
The Perseids got their name from the point in the sky in which they appear, which lies in the constellation Perseus. The meteors are actually debris from the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle.
The comet swings by the earth every 130 years, but the earth passes through the tail once a year. A filament of dust was pulled off the comet's debris stream in 1862 and increases the rate of meteors.
News On 6 meteorologist Nick Bender says viewing conditions in Oklahoma this year should be almost perfect, much better than last year.
"Great weather conditions, clear skies," said Bender. "There was a big moon out there last year. This year there is a crescent moon, really great viewing conditions."
The shower is visible beginning in mid-July each year, with the peak hitting between August 9th and 14th, depending on the particular location of the stream. Bender says the peak this year in Oklahoma should be Thursday night, with the rate hitting 100 shooting stars per hour.
A News On 6 staffer spent about 90 minutes watching for meteors Tuesday night and counted about 5 per hour. Many of the meteors he spotted were spectacular, shooting across the sky for a few seconds at a time.
Bender says the meteor shower is just one fascinating astronomical event happening in Oklahoma's skies this week. Venus, Mars and Saturn are clearly visible together in the west-southwest ski after sunset, with Mercury to the lower right.
The Perseids, on the other hand, will originate in the northeastern sky. Many of the meteors will leave long streaks across the sky.
Bender says he loves astronomy and is thrilled to be talking about something other than the heat for a change. "If it's up in the air we have to take an interest in it. Anything that doesn't deal with the heat."