An incredible display of celestial fireworks can be spotted between 21-22 October as debris left by Halley’s Comet lights up the night sky – if the weather lets you see it.
The Orionid meteor shower, which has been going on all month, peaks for several hours on Saturday night and Sunday morning, offering you the best possible chance of seeing the spectacle for yourself.
What could I see?
The shower is expected to present a dramatic light show and potentially produce up to 25 meteors every hour until the early morning of Sunday.
What is it?
The Orionid Meteor Shower that we’ll (hopefully) be seeing this weekend is a result of the Earth passing through debris of Halley’s Comet.
Each time that Halley returns to the inner solar system, its nucleus sheds ice and rocky dust into space. The dust grains eventually become the Orionids in October.
The phenomenon gets its name from the Orion constellation – which is one of the brightest groups of stars in the sky.
The meteoroids can travel at high speeds of 148,000mph through the Earth’s atmosphere and appear as vast streaks of light.
The Earth and Halley’s Comet intersect each other twice every year due their elliptical orbits around the sun. This creates the Orionids, as well as the Eta Aquariid meteor show in May.
With the comet only swinging by Earth once every 75 to 76 years, this annual shower provides some compensation for those who may miss that rare event.
When is the meteor shower peak?
The shower has been happening throughout October, but its peak is between midnight and dawn tomorrow and Sunday, meaning that’s the optimal time to spot it.
Overall, the peak is expected to last for about seven hours – between 11pm on Saturday night and 6am on Sunday morning.
Experts advise that you get yourself in position to spot the shower (you’ll find further advice on this below) at around 11pm on Saturday.
This will give your eyes plenty of time to adjust to the darkness before the best viewing time between 2am and dawn.
While this weekend is your best chance to spot it, Dr Minjae Kim, research fellow at the department of physics, University of Warwick, assures stargazers they’ll “easily” catch a glimpse of the Orionids for several days after.
The shower ends on 7 November so you may still catch a glimpse even if it’s not this weekend.
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How can I see it?
The good news is that you can leave your high-powered telescope at home, because the meteor shower is visible to the naked eye in all parts of the sky.
All you need, according to experts, is a bit of patience, a clear sky and a safe spot away from street lights and other light pollution.
The bad news is that the sky is expected to be pretty cloudy in the UK tomorrow night and Sunday morning.
You may also be hindered by the amount of natural light from the moon. If it’s particularly prominent overnight, it may disrupt your view.