Stargazers will have their best opportunity to view the annual Orionid meteor shower this week, with the cosmic light show expected to peak in the early-morning hours on Wednesday.
According to Space.com, the 2020 shower presents “an excellent” viewing opportunity because “the moon will be a slender crescent, four days past new phase and will have set before 9:30 p.m. local time on the night of their peak activity, and will not pose any hindrance whatsoever to prospective meteor observers.”
Although the meteors have been visible nightly since Oct. 2 and will remain so through Nov. 7, they are scheduled to peak before sunrise on Wednesday, Space.com reported.
Orionid meteors, which are visible as Earth passes through the debris from Halley’s comet, are both bright and fast, traveling at about 148,000 mph, or roughly 41 miles-per-second, typically leaving glowing debris “trains” that can last for several seconds to even minutes, according to NASA.
“The Orionids are also framed by some of the brightest stars in the night sky, which lend a spectacular backdrop for theses showy meteors,” NASA stated.
Meanwhile, the Orionids are named for the constellation Orion, and the meteor shower’s radiant point is located just north of Orion’s brightest star, Betelgeuse, NASA stated.
The Orionids are visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres in the hours after midnight, but minimizing light pollution in your viewing area vastly increases the chances of seeing the meteors more clearly. For optimum viewing, NASA suggests lying flat on your back with your feet facing southeast if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or northeast if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.
In addition, NASA recommends viewing the Orionid meteor shower from 45 to 90 degrees away from Orion, where they will appear “longer and more magnificent.”
Skygazers can expect to see roughly 20 meteors per hour.
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