Click the image to see the Astronomy.com story.
The Perseids begin as tiny specks of dust that hit Earth’s atmosphere at 13,000 miles per hour, vaporizing from friction with the air and leaving behind the streaks of plasma and dust as they self-destruct. The meteors appear to radiate from a spot on the border between the constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus (the latter gives its name to the shower). This radiant lies about one-third of the way from the northeastern horizon to the highest point in the sky (zenith) around midnight local time and climbs higher as the Earth spins toward dawn; this is why you'll see more the later you stay up watching, because more are visible above the horizon.
The crescent Moon rises shortly after 1:00am, so it won’t ruin the show: The shower consistently produces lots of bright meteors, and the Moon's phase is pretty late-crescent (no not very bright). During the show's peak, under clear dark skies, you'll likely see 60-80 meteors per hour in the early pre-dawn hours. In the hours just before twilight, the brilliant planets Venus and Jupiter rise, adding to one of the finest predawn shows of 2012.
And now for the Astro-Porn! Here's a gorgeous time-exposure showing Perseid activity:
Click the image to see the Sky & Telescope.com story.
I'll be camping outside of town tonight and tomorrow night with some friends, so should be lovely! I'll also bring a telescope or two.