Three planets align with moon before meteors fall Thursday night

Venus, Saturn and Mars join company with a crescent moon in the western sky Thursday night, right before the Perseid meteor shower.

The moon and planets meet at sundown. They’ll stay up ‘til about 10 p.m., and then the meteor shower begins.

The astronomy news service Science@NASA says the Earth already is plowing through a cloud of cosmic debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the dusty trail from which particles hit Earth’s atmosphere at 140,000 mph, disintegrating in streaks of light.

From Earth’s perspective, these “shooting stars” seem to come from the constellation Perseus.

Science@NASA says this should be a good year for Perseids because the moon moves out of the way from midnight to dawn, cutting the glare. Spectators can further clear their perspective by getting away from city lights.

“For sheer numbers, the best time to look is during the darkest hours before dawn on Friday morning when most observers will see dozens of Perseids per hour,” says the news service.

So far, though, the weather forecast doesn't much favor this sky show: The National Weather Service says skies will be mostly cloudy Thursday night, with 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms overnight and a 40 percent chance Friday.

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