Annual Orionid meteor shower will peak tonight and early morning tomorrow

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Credit: Phil Hart

Orionid meteor shower is going to peak tonight and the best time to view it will be very early hours of Thursday morning if you don’t mind sacrificing a few hours of sleep in favour of this celestial marvel.

These fireworks happen every year around this time as Earth travels through an area of space littered with debris from Halley’s Comet. This year, Earth will go through the densest part of Halley’s debris stream in early hours of October 22 and that’s why it will be the best time to look for the Orionid meteors.

“The Orionids will probably show weaker activity than usual this year,” says Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environments Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “Bits of comet dust hitting the atmosphere will probably give us about a dozen meteors per hour.”

The display will be framed by some of the prettiest stars in the night sky. In addition to Orionids, you’ll see the “Dog Star” Sirius, bright winter constellations such as Orion, Gemini, and Taurus, and the planets Jupiter and Venus. Even if the shower is a dud, the rest of the sky is dynamite.

If you fancy checking out a few meteors as they burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, the best time is a few hours before dawn. Go outside and look up in the direction of the constellation Orion. You wouldn’t require any special instruments to view the Orionids shooting across the sky – just your eyes will be enough. NASA is hosting a live stream of the event via Ustream beginning October 21, at 10 p.m. EDT [3:00 AM Thursday, British Standard Time (BST)].

How to enjoy the Perseids

You won’t need a telescope or a pair of binoculars to enjoy the Orionids. All you need is your eyes. The best place to view the shower would be an open space in the country side with a wide-open view overhead. You can bring you reclining lawn chair or ground cloth or a sleeping bag so you can lie back and watch the sky in comfort.

The trick is to relax and let your eye get accustomed to the darkness and when the shower is at its peak you would see about one meteor per minute. It is highly unlikely to see several at once, but you can keep your fingers crossed.