Meteor fans: this is one of your nights.
The annual Orionid meteor shower peaks Friday night into Saturday morning. If you have an unclouded view of the night sky, preferably away from urban light, you’ll have plenty of chances to see some beautiful streaks of light with your naked eyes.
What are the Orionids?
They’re one of a few major, yearly meteor showers. The Orionids — so named because the meteors appear to radiate out from near the Orion constellation — happen from October to November. This year, the showtime is October 4 through November 14.
But Friday night is the peak, meaning you could see about 20 meteors per hour, NASA says — more than at any other point during the Orionid window.
What causes it?
Meteors are tiny space debris burning up as they hit Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of the Orionids, the debris are particles left behind by Halley’s Comet, which last was in our cosmic neighborhood in 1986. When the comet flies close to the sun every 75 years or so, the sun burns off some of the comet’s surface, so it leaves behind dust and rock.
The Earth runs into the cloud of debris in October and November, resulting in the Orionid showers, and from April to May, for the Eta Aquarid showers.
Where is Halley’s Comet, anyway?
Far away from here. It’s been traveling away from our sun since its 1986 flyby, and it’s projected to come back close enough for us to see it with the naked eye in 2061.