Shooting stars due as meteor shower peaks
Shooting stars are expected to streak across the sky as Earth passes through debris left behind by a comet.
Stargazers are hoping to see the meteor shower peak this weekend, with the Orionid meteors – which appear every year – producing around 20 meteors every hour.
The meteoroids from Halley’s Comet will strike Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 148,000mph resulting in them burning up in streaking flashes of light that can be seen with the naked eye.
Astronomer Tom Kerss, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: “The Orionids is a modest shower, producing around 20 meteors per hour at best under absolutely perfect conditions.
“In reality, you’ll see far fewer, because your local conditions are variously less than ideal, but Orionid meteors are known for their speed and brilliance, so if you persevere there’s a good chance you’ll see several bright ‘shooting stars’ zipping across the sky.”
The best time to catch a glimpse of the shower will be on October 22 between midnight and dawn, when the shower will be at its brightest and the sky will be at its darkest.
However, the shower will be active throughout the month.
“We expect the peak to occur on the night of 21/22 October when the young crescent Moon will set conveniently before the radiant of the shower – the point from which the meteors appear to spread out – rises in the east,” Mr Kerss said.
“If you can brave the cold, make a plan to stay out between midnight and 3am on Sunday morning to give yourself the best chance, and enjoy the thrill of seeing tiny flecks of Halley’s Comet disintegrate at hypersonic speeds above your head.”
For the best viewing experience, the astronomer recommends finding a secluded area to allow the eyes to adjust to the darkness first.
Mr Kerss added: “There’s no advantage to using binoculars or a telescope, your eyes are the best tool available for spotting meteors, so relax and gaze up at the sky, and eventually your patience will be rewarded.
“Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, though if you have to pick a direction, you might fare slightly better looking east.”