Thursday, October 21, 2010

Orionid meteor shower peaks tonight (Oct 21)

Meteors from Halley's Comet rain down on Earth
Viewing opportunity, away from city lights, will peak Thursday



Halley's Comet won't zoom near Earth again for another 50 years, but the ice ball may still put on a show for some skywatchers this week in the form of a meteor shower.


Astronomers in Canada have snapped photos of meteors that are actually bits of Halley's Comet left behind during its long, looping, 76-year trip around the sun.


Twice a year — in early May and mid-October — Earth plows through this cometary debris field and chunks of Halley's Comet burn up high in our planet's atmosphere, producing a meteor shower.


This year's October shower — called the Orionid meteor shower, because it appears to come from the constellation Orion — has been going on since Oct. 15, according to NASA officials. It will peak today (Oct. 21).


Watching Orionids is easy, but conditions must be right. Skywatchers should try to find a clear, dark sky far from pesky city lights.

This skywatching table shows prime Orionid meteor shower viewing times for some select U.S. cities.


Here's how to spot the Orionids:


Go out after 11 p.m. local time, lie down and look straight up. Once your eyes become dark-adapted, you'll start to see meteors. Any of these that appear to come from Orion will be an Orionid, and therefore represent a piece of Comet Halley doing a death dive into our atmosphere.




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