A Meteor Shower Made by Halley's Comet Peaks Tonight. Here's How to See It.
Don't miss your chance to see the best meteor shower for a while.
Tuesday is a big night for Chicken Little. It's the night when all of his long-burning anxieties get a can of gasoline thrown onto the embers.
The Orionid meteor shower will peak overnight between Tuesday, October 20, and Wednesday, October 21; more specifically, during the early morning hours of October 21. It won't be so intense that you'll really think the sky is falling, but it will still be a beautiful sight as Earth crashes through the debris left behind by Halley's Comet. Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office tells Thrillist that stargazers should expect to see around 20 meteors per hour as the late-October shower hits its peak.
The shower lasts from October 2 to November 7, but this week's peak is when you're likely to see the most meteors. Here's how to get out and see meteors light up the sky overhead.
How to See the Orionid Meteor Shower
While the shower isn't as active as the year's biggest meteor displays, like the Perseids, the conditions will be favorable. The moon, which under other circumstances can wash out meteors with its light, will set before you should be out meteor hunting. With the Orionids, the best time to view the display is in the few hours before dawn. Though, you should start to see the rate of meteors pick up after midnight local time.
The meteors not having to compete with moonlight is a good thing for any meteor shower, but that's especially true with the Orionids, which are known for producing fast and faint meteors. Though, they do tend to have persistent trains, the tails of ionized gas that trail behind the front of the meteor.
You'll need to get to a dark place to catch the display. The massive amount of light pollution found in urban and suburban areas will prevent you from seeing most, if not all, of the meteors. Wherever you go, it's best to sit or lie on the ground, looking about halfway up the sky, the American Meteor Society says.
It can be helpful to locate the radiant, which is the point from which the meteors appear to emanate. For the Orionids, that's the constellation Orion, or just north of the constellation's brightest star, Betelgeuse. An app like Sky View Lite can make it exceptionally easy to find the constellation if you need a hand locating the radiant.
It's worth noting, however, that you shouldn't stare directly at the radiant. It's not going to blind or like an eclipse, but you might miss some meteors because they'll be moving away from that point and not across it.
Dress warm and plan on being outside for a while. It can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, making it possible to see fainter meteors. Late October may not the best stargazing weather you'll get over the course of a year, but it's not going to get better anytime soon. Get out there, bring a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee, and enjoy the show.