Thank your lucky stars! The Orionid meteor shower peaks this weekend
Stargazers can catch one of the year’s best space shows with the peak of the Orionid meteor shower. USA TODAY
Keep your eyes to the sky this weekend: You’ll be able to see one of the year’s best space shows — the peak of the Orionid meteor shower.
“The Orionids are popular among stargazers because all of its individual shooting stars are fragments of the most famous comet of all time, Halley’s Comet,” Sloohastronomer Bob Berman said.
The shower should be visible both Friday and Saturday nights, and the best viewing will be between midnight and dawn.
Though the meteors will emanate from the eastern horizon, they will streak across the entire sky and will be visible from anywhere on Earth, according to NASA. By dawn, they should be high in the Southern sky, Sky and Telescope said.
From a dark site, you might see a maximum of about 10 to 15 meteors per hour, said Bruce McClure of EarthSky.
The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest and brightest among meteor showers because the Earth is hitting the stream of particles almost head-on, according to Space.com.
As the comet moves through space, it leaves debris in its wake that strikes Earth’s atmosphere most fully around Oct. 20-22, each year. Although the comet itself is nowhere near Earth, we’re now intersecting the comet’s orbit.
If the meteors originate from Halley’s, why are they called the Orionids? “Meteors in annual showers are named for the point in our sky from which they appear to radiate,” according to EarthSky’s Deborah Byrd. “The radiant point for the Orionids is in the direction of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter.”
This year will be a particularly good year for viewing the Orionids since the peak of the shower falls just days after the new moon, meaning there will be little natural light pollution for the shower to compete with, AccuWeather said.
Another bonus: Skywatchers across the highly populated eastern U.S. should have clear skies for viewing the Orionids, according to AccuWeather meteorologist and astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel. Temperatures are also on the mild side.
Clear skies are also expected across much of the southwestern U.S., while clouds create issues for those trying to view the shower in the northwestern and central U.S., AccuWeather said.
If you miss this shower, you can still catch the Leonids in November and the Geminds in December.