Orionid meteor shower promises a weekend treat

This image shows a closeup look at an Orionid meteoroid streaking across the sky in 2009.

(Credit: Steve Ryan )

Around this time of year, the Earth passes through a trail of space debris left over from Halley’s Comet’s 76-year orbit around the sun, giving us a prime angle to a spectacular shooting-star show.

The Orionid meteor shower’s peak — expected to last from 10:30 p.m. on Saturday to 5 a.m. on Sunday across most of the U.S. — could produce up to 25 meteors per hour, says Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. Check in with star-gazing Web site Spacedex to see when Orionid specifically occurs near you.

Inexperienced observers may not know what to expect during a meteor shower. It’s most important to understand that meteors don’t appear as a stereotypical slow-moving comet in the sky, but rather as a series of fast-moving streaks. After all, the Orionid meteoroids cascade upon our atmosphere at roughly 148,000 mph.

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