Oct 20, 2023
Nightowl stargazers are in for a treat this weekend. An annual meteor shower will reach its peak. It'll send streaks of light across the skies of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
They’re called the Orionids. They're caused by debris from an ice and dust cloud left behind by Halley’s Comet centuries ago. And Earth passes through the debris every year. Saturday will be the meteor shower's peak. Barring bad weather, viewing conditions between today and its peak are gauged to be fairly good this year. And the moon will be lit at only 37%. So, it isn't likely to disturb nighttime viewing.
Viewers willing to stay up after midnight or get up before dawn are likely to be able to see between 20 and 30 meteors per hour, scientists say.
NASA describes the Orionids as the most stunning yearly recurring meteor showers to hit the Earth’s atmosphere. Meteor showers are often referred to as “shooting stars.” But this is untrue. They occur when swiftly moving debris in space enters Earth’s atmosphere and burns up. And this creates a fireball.
Viewers don’t need binoculars or telescopes to see them. Those who are patient, warmly dressed, and willing to spend at least an hour getting their eyes adjusted to the dark are likely to have the most enjoyable experience.
“The best way to see these meteors is to lie in a comfortable lounge chair with the back angled so that you are looking about half-way up in the sky.” The American Meteor Society (AMS) offered this advice in a statement.
AMS said the best time to watch is after midnight Saturday morning.
Reflect: How do natural events like meteor showers contribute to our sense of wonder and connection to the universe, and why do people find them fascinating?
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