Those of you with clear skies should make a point of peering at them tonight. The shower – produced by debris from a near-Earth asteroid called 3200 Phaethon – should become increasingly intense throughout the night, peaking in intensity around dawn. According to NASA, this should be the best meteor shower of the year. It may well be worth getting up before dawn (or staying up especially late) and looking to the western sky.
3200 Phaethon is thought to be a former comet, dust from which began intercepting Earth’s orbit annually during the American Civil War. The object is about 5 kilometres wide and misses the earth by only 2 million kilometres. If you have access to a decent telescope (many university observatories are open to the public some nights), you can observer Phaethon in the constellation Virgo. It only has the brightness of a 14th magnitude star, so neither the naked eye nor binoculars are sufficient to pick it out.