The so-called "tears of St. Lawrence," otherwise known as the Perseid meteor shower, will peak this coming weekend, which should give stargazers a fantastic show.
The Perseid meteor shower has a long and storied history with astronomers. According to Newsday, it was the ancient Chinese sky watchers who first documented the meteor event in 36 AD and wrote that "more than 100 meteors flew thither in the morning."
The Earth is expected to encounter the "core" of the Perseid swarm, where meteoroid concentration is densest, on Sunday, Aug. 12. Meteorologist David Epstein said, "Saturday and Sunday nights, the moon will be in a waning crescent phase, therefore moonlight won't hamper viewing."
In 1862, Americans Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle discovered a comet that was then named after them. Space.com noted that French astronomer Camille Flammarion ranked comet Swift-Tuttle among the 10 "really fine and striking comets" of the 19th century. But it was not until 1867 that the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered the comet was the source of the Perseid shower.
According to NASA, the small meteors that people on Earth can see likely "boiled off the comet during the Civil War, in 1862."
Other dust in the cloud is older (perhaps thousands of years old), more dispersed, and responsible for the monthlong shower that will peak this coming Sunday.