The Orionid meteor shower peaks tonight into tomorrow morning (Oct. 20-21), and the moon will be dim enough that skygazers might be able to see one or several of these shooting stars.
The bright streaks across the sky that people may see from now until early November are bits and pieces from Halley’s comet. Although the comet won’t be visible from Earth again until about four decades from now, it leaves behind a debris path in the solar system. And each year during mid-October, the Earth passes through this field. Our planet also passes through another part of this debris field in early May, resulting in the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
The Orionid meteors are known for their speed because they travel at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into the Earth’s atmosphere, according to NASA. The meteor shower gets its name from its radiant, which is the point in the sky from which the streaks appear to emanate. The Orionid radiant is located near the constellation Orion, the hunter, next to the warrior’s lifted arm.
The longer streaks appear away from the radiant, so the best way to view meteors is to either find a place to lay down flat on the ground for at least an hour or to look towards the part of the sky that is slightly higher than the location of the constellation Orion.
If possible, find a place that has little light pollution. Apps are great for locating constellations, but remember to avoid looking at a phone screen during meteor-shower viewing. It takes time for human eyes to adjust to the night sky, and a bright light could disrupt that eye training needed to spot dimmer meteors.
The moon will be a waxing crescent during the shower’s peak, according to NASA, so the little moonlight coming off of that lunar sliver won’t flood the sky during the meteor shower’s peak. This makes it easier for viewers to spot shooting stars. Spectators can expect to see about 10-20 meteors an hour, according to Bill Cooke, the lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.