Get ready for a show this weekend

An Orionid meteor streaks past the hero’s uplifted arms. You can see Orion’s “belt” in the bottom right corner of the photograph. Photo: Velo Steve/Flickr

If you enjoy stargazing, plan to sleep in on Sunday morning. The Orionid meteor shower will reach its peak between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m on October 21, with anywhere between 15 and 20 meteorites blazing through our atmosphere an hour.

The Orionids, named for their proximity to the constellation Orion in our sky, are actually refuse left behind from Halley’s Comet. Every 76 years the comet circles the sun, constantly leaving pieces of itself in its orbital wake.

Most of the meteorites are no bigger than a piece of dust or sand, but when they collide with our atmosphere they reach extremely high temperatures, blazing forth in what we call a “shooting star.”

There’s one lucky feature of this year’s shower: The moon will be setting around 11 p.m., so the sky will be nice and dark for optimal viewing. However, the Orionids aren’t particularly bright meteors, so you’ll need to escape the city lights if you want a decent look. Or, you can wait until 2061 for the their source, the mighty Halley’s Comet, to come around again.

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