Orionid Meteor Shower to Light Up Weekend Skies

The annual display comes when Earth crosses the path of debris left by Halley's Comet

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    NASA
    The late October Orionid meteor show is one of the prettiest such events, according to NASA.

    Stargazers, this weekend you must get yourselves to prime viewing areas, far from city lights and above the clouds.

    Overnight Saturday and into dawn Sunday, the annual Orionid meteor shower will be at peak, and, for your viewing pleasure, the crescent moon will have set.

    Can't get to a dark location above the clouds? NASA is livestreaming the night sky from its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The stream will show a gray box during daylight hours.


    Live video for mobile from Ustream

     The annual shower comes every October as Earth crosses a debris path left in the wake of Halley's Comet, which visited the blue planet in 1986. The bright "shooting stars" you'll see are pieces of debris entering Earth's atmosphere and vaporizing as they fall, according to EarthSky.

    "These fast-moving meteors occasionally leave persistent trains and bright fireballs. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to come from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter," EarthSky reports.

    The best time to watch begins at 11:11 p.m. , when the moon sets, until the sky begins to brighten at about 5:40 a.m. Sunday, according to the Griffith Observatory Sky Report.

    Before dawn, up to 25 Orionids per hour will be visible in areas where there's no urban lights.
    Jupiter and Venus will also be visible. Stargazers can find the darkest skies with this iPhone app.

    The head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said the Orionid shower isn't the strongest, but it's one of the prettiest. The meteors strike the Earth's atmosphere at 148,000 mph, NASA's Bill Cooke said.

    The Griffith Observatory will have one of its Public Star Parties from 2 to 9:45 p.m. Saturday, but Griffith Park will close just before the viewing gets good, so you'll want to head elsewhere for the big show.

    Low clouds and fog forecast for Saturday night are expected to spread inland overnight and into Sunday, so you may need to seek mountain high ground to get a glimpse of this mighty meteor shower.