Every year around Aug 10 - 13 the Earth runs into a cloud of debris (chunks of ice and small rocks) in space.
These collide with us and burn up in the atmosphere, making beautiful streaks of light which are often called "shooting stars" (perhaps because "shooting rocks" is not very poetic)
Most are remarkably small: the size of a grain of rice or smaller!
From a dark mountain site you can see about 50 or more shooting stars per hour if the moon is not out. From the suburbs about 10 per hour. From downtown at most few per hour since city lights interfere.
2014 is a bad year. The moon is near full, and it is up most of the night. Romantic, but not so good for meteors…
You see more shooting stars after midnight than before for the same reason that more bugs hit the front windshield of a car than hit the back. (I explain that on Colorado Public Radio!)
The paths of the meteors trace back to the constellation Perseus, which is why they are called “Perseid” meteors, but the streaks are seen all over the sky. If you have more than one person meteor watching, lie down and face different directions.
A similar impact of a much larger object made the big "meteor crater" in Arizona, and an even bigger one killed off the dinosaurs, but these are very rare. We're not in any danger!
In fact, only one person has ever been hit by a falling meteorite, although a family in Berthoud saw one fall in their yard a few years ago.
Meteorites are fascinating because they give us a sample of space further out than the astronauts have been able to go. Every meteorite ever studied dates back to the very beginning of the solar system, 4½ billion years ago. They must come from the birth of the solar system.
One of the best nights of my life was sleeping on the famous mountain "Half-Dome" in Yosemite and seeing 400 meteors before we lost count and fell asleep… :)
At Fiske Planetarium you can see and touch a large meteorite, and of course experience the brand new Fiske theater, the most spectacular planetarium image in the USA!