An incredible display of celestial fireworks can be seen between October 21 and 22 when debris left by Halley’s Comet lights up the night sky – weather permitting.
The Orionid meteor shower, which has been going on all month, peaks for several hours on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, giving you the best possible chance to see the spectacle for yourself.
What could I see?
The shower is expected to present a dramatic light show and potentially produce up to 25 meteors every hour until early Sunday morning.
What is it?
The Orionid Meteor Shower that we will (hopefully) see this weekend is a result of Earth passing through debris from Halley’s Comet.
Every time Halley returns to the inner solar system, its core ejects ice and rocky dust into space. The dust grains eventually become the Orionids in October.
The phenomenon gets its name from the constellation Orion – which is one of the brightest groups of stars in the sky.
The meteoroids can travel at high speeds of 148,000 mph through the Earth’s atmosphere and appear as huge streaks of light.
Earth and Halley’s Comet cross each other twice each year due to their elliptical orbits around the Sun. This creates the Orionids, as well as the Eta Aquariid meteor show in May.
Since the comet only swings past Earth once every 75 to 76 years, this annual shower provides some compensation for those who might miss the rare event.
When is the peak of the meteor shower?
The shower has been taking place throughout October, but its peak is between midnight and dawn tomorrow and Sunday, meaning it’s the optimal time to spot it.
Overall, the peak is expected to last around seven hours – between 11pm on Saturday night and 6am on Sunday morning.
Experts recommend getting yourself in position to spot the shower (you’ll find further advice on this below) around 23:00 on Saturday.
This will give your eyes plenty of time to adjust to the dark before the best viewing time between 2 am and dawn.
Although this weekend is your best chance to spot it, Dr Minjae Kim, researcher at the Department of Physics, University of Warwick, assures stargazers that they will “easily” glimpse the Orionids for several days afterwards.
The shower ends on November 7th, so you can still catch a glimpse even if it’s not this weekend.
How can I see it?
The good news is that you can leave your high-powered telescope at home because the meteor shower is visible to the naked eye in all parts of the sky.
All you need, according to experts, is a little patience, a clear sky and a safe place away from street lights and other light pollution.
The bad news is that skies are expected to be fairly cloudy across the UK tomorrow night and Sunday morning.
You may also be hampered by the amount of natural light from the moon. If it’s particularly prominent overnight, it can interfere with your vision.