Orionid meteor shower to peak this weekend

By Brooks Hays  |  Oct. 20, 2017 at 9:08 AM
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Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The annual Orionid meteor shower is expected to peak over the weekend, offering viewers with clear skies the chance to see up to 20 meteors per hour.

Almost all meteor showers are best viewed between midnight and dawn, and the Orionid shower is no different. With a new moon only barely in the rear view mirror, this weekend's meteor shower will be free of interfering moonlight.

To watch the cosmic fireworks, viewers should train their eyes toward Orion's Belt in the eastern night sky. Though Friday night into early Saturday morning will offer a decent showing, the meteor shower is expected to peak Saturday night into Sunday morning.

"The Orionids are very egalitarian. It doesn't matter where on earth you are you can pretty much see them," NASA astronomer Bill Cooke told Newsweek.

According to EarthSky, the weekend's skies will offer a few treats in addition to the shooting star show.

"As the predawn darkness starts to give way to dawn, watch for the planets Mars and Venus to rise into your eastern sky," EarthSky reports. "The predawn and dawn sky also offers a great view of Sirius, the sky's brightest star."

In addition to Sirius, the Dog Star, the night sky will also offer views of several bright constellations, including Gemini and Taurus.

The weekend's main attraction is made possible by Halley's Comet. The famed ball of ice and rock is trailed by a dust trail, which deposits rocky, icy debris as it orbits through the solar system.

When Earth's atmosphere and the trail of debris collide, the fragments of rock are burned up by the friction of the upper atmosphere, creating bright, burning streaks in the night sky. Orionid meteors create a uniquely short streak because they hit the atmosphere at a much more direct angle than others -- so don't blink.

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