Unless there’s a rare solar eclipse threatening to captivate the entire nation, it’s admittedly hard to keep up with -- let alone witness -- all of the spectacular celestial phenomena that unfold in the sky. Luckily, we’ve got some good news if you’ve missed out on recent meteor showers or chances to see the Northern Lights so far this year: a major meteor shower will light up the sky on Friday night.
The Orionid meteor shower is expected to peak this weekend, and the best chance to see the icy comet fragments burn up and streak across the sky is just before dawn -- around 3am local time. The annual display is active from October 2 through November 7, but you can expect to see as many as 20 meteors per hour during its peak. That is, if you manage to drag yourself out of bed at an unspeakably early hour and wander into a dark field for a good view of the spectacle.
If you wake up on time (set at least three alarms), all you have to do is look for the constellation Orion with its belt of three starts in the eastern sky. You'll see the meteors throughout the sky, but they'll appear to originate from the area of the sky above Orion's Belt near the red supergiant star Betelgeuse. But don't rub your tired eyes or blink too much while you gaze skyward, as the Orionids have the fastest meteors of any shower.
"The Orionids, because they're moving so fast, they burn up very quickly," Bill Cooke, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, recently told Thrillist. "In other words, you blink, you're going to miss them."