Orionid meteor shower to grace night sky this weekend

A shot from the Orionid Meteor Shower in 2012 over New Mexico. (Source: Flickr/Mike Lewinski)

(WATE) – You can see one of the best celestial events of the year between tonight, Oct. 20 and Sunday, Oct. 22 as the Orionid meteor shower peaks. The meteors will be part of  one of the fastest, brightest meteor showers around.

The show is visible from anywhere on earth and can be seen across the entire sky. Find the shape of Orion the Hunter – the meteors will start near Orion’s sword, just north of his left shoulder.

Astronomers recommend going out around 1:30 a.m., when the sky is darkest, and get as far away from the city lights as possible. Give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to the dark. Then, lie on the ground and look towards the sky; you won’t need binoculars or a telescope – they work better for looking at planets and other fixed objects. Tonight’s forecast calls for clear to partly cloudy skies, making for excellent viewing conditions. And because the moon is in its first quarter, there won’t be any extra light in the sky to wash out the meteor shower.

According to Space.com, the tiny comet fragments that make up the Orionid shower, are called meteoroids; some of them are as small as a grain of sand. They become meteors when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Friction from the air causes these meteors to heat up, creating a bright, fiery trail we know as “shooting stars.” Most of these meteors burn up before making it to the ground. The ones that do hit the ground are referred to as “meteorites.”

The particles from the Orionid meteor shower come from Halley’s Comet, which passes by earth every 75 or so years. As the comet passes by earth, it leaves a trail of “crumbs” in its wake.


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