The annual Perseid meteor shower as seen at the Guadarrama mountains,...

The annual Perseid meteor shower as seen at the Guadarrama mountains, near Madrid, in August 2016. Credit: AP/Francisco Seco

This weekend will  offer prime-time viewing on Long Island for one of the best meteor showers of the year.

The annual Perseid meteor shower will hit its peak, with the best viewing  from midnight to dawn Sunday, said Frederick Walter, a professor of astronomy at Stony Brook University.

“They can be very spectacular. They can get very bright,” he said. 

For the best viewing, Walter said, get as far away from lights as you can, give your eyes at least a half-hour to get adjusted to the dark, and look to the northeast near the constellation Perseus.

Because the moon is new and will be only a sliver in the sky, providing little light, conditions should be ideal for seeing lots of meteors — bright trails of light streaking across the sky, he said.

“The darker it is, the more you will see,” Walter said.

He added that places such as Orient Point and Montauk may be among the best sites because they have fewer lights and are at the tip of Long Island.

You don’t need equipment.  You can see the meteors with the naked eye. Avoid looking at your cellphone; that will ruin your night vision.

By around 11 p.m. Saturday, some meteors will start to show up — maybe about one every 15 minutes, said NASA scientist Bill Cooke. Then the pace should pick up until before dawn Sunday, he said.

By 4 a.m. Sunday, the peak of the peak, people may be able to see as many as one every minute.

The Perseids are one of the biggest meteor showers we can see.  They occur every year in the late summer.

In Southold, stargazers can watch the shower at the Custer Observatory, with a performance by the Axolotl Ensemble, on Saturday starting at 8 p.m. The concert features compositions inspired by meteors and icy asteroids.

Observatory staff will also lead guided tours of the night sky using telescopes, including a large Zerochromat telescope in an observation dome.

Bringing a blanket or chair is recommended. Tickets are $30 for adults and free for children younger than 16. The rain date is Sunday night.

New York State parks also listed sites where the shower may be seen, including Jones Beach, Sunken Meadow, Montauk Point, Wildwood State Park, Orient Beach State Park and Hallock State Park Preserve. 

Meteor showers happen when the Earth moves through fields of debris floating in space. The Perseids come from comet Swift-Tuttle, a big ball of ice and rock that sheds pieces of dusty debris as it orbits around the sun.

When the Earth passes by, those bits get caught in our atmosphere and burn up, creating the streaking lights.

Stephen Lawrence, an astronomy and physics professor at Hofstra University, said Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun and passes the Earth every 133 years, but it leaves behind particles seen every year on a loop. 

“These particles are the size of a grain of sand grain or a pebble burning through the atmosphere. It’s usually nothing in the end,” Lawrence said.

The Perseids get their name from the constellation Perseus, because the meteors’ paths appear to start out from that point in the sky.

With Tara Smith and AP

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