Tonight's Meteor Shower Is Spectacular Debris From Halley’s Comet
The annual Orionid meteor shower will peak Thursday night.
The meteor shower will peak late Thursday night and continue early into Friday morning. It is expected that those on the ground will be able to see between 10 and 20 meteors every hour during the shower’s peak.
Some years, however, the Orionid meteor shower has produced up to 90 meteors per hour. The meteors will be most visible right before dawn.
Although the Orionids are known to be exceptionally beautiful, they move very fast—about 41 miles per second—and are often faint. About half of the meteors leave something called “persistent trains,” which are gas trails that linger for a few seconds in the meteor’s path.
This year is going to be particularly difficult to spot the meteor shower: The light from the waning moon will probably wash out the fainter meteors, according to NASA Meteor Watch, and a lot of the U.S. will be looking at the sky through significant cloud coverage.
The best places to spot the shower will be in the countryside in the middle of the U.S., or along the Southeast coast.
The Orionid meteors are best known as debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. At about this time every year, the Earth comes in contact with the comet’s orbit. Remaining particles of the comet enter Earth’s atmosphere and vaporize in a spectacular show that lasts about 10 days. This year’s shower will continue until October 26.
Those unable to view this week’s meteor shower should mark the next spectacular show, the Geminids, on their calendars. The multicolored shower can present about 120 meteors per hour at its peak, which is predicted to be around December 13.