The Orionid meteor shower is peaking this weekend (Saturday, October 20, 2012). The Orionids were created from the famous Halley’s Comet, and should deliver a very impressive show this year according to experts in the field.
The Orionids will reach their peak overnight from Saturday to Sunday, October 20-21. This happens every year as the Earth zooms through the debris left by Halley’s Comet on its orbit around the sun. The best time to see them is going to be on Sunday a few hours before dawn.
“Flakes of comet dust hitting the atmosphere should give us dozens of meteors per hour,” Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said in a statement.
The moon will be quite dark, it will only be five days after the new moon. So the moonlight won’t drown out very many of the meteors.
“The Orionids — so named because they appear to originate near Betelgeuse, the second-brightest star in the constellation Orion (The Hunter) — have historically produced about 20 meteors per hour during their peak. However, the shower has been especially impressive in the last half-decade or so, Cooke said.”
The Orionids are one half of the two annual meteor showers made by debris from Haley’s Comet. The other, the Eta Aquarids, will peak next year in early May.
Halley’s Comet itself won’t be back until 2061. It just recently visited the earth in 1986, and takes around 75 years to make its return. Halley’s Comet is one of the brightest comets seen in recorded history, easily visible with just the naked eye.