This week sees the Earth pass through the debris left behind by Halley’s Comet – and it should be a spectacular show.
The Orionids Meteor Shower could see 20 meteors per hour at its peak on the night of Wednesday-Thursday, October 21-22.
Known and observed since ancient times, the cosmic display of shooting stars is produced by dust grains left behind by the famous comet.
Halley’s Comet itself swings by the inner solar system ever 76 years, the last visit being in 1986.
And it’s because comets like Halley are so crumbly that we see annual meteor showers like the Orionids.
Nasa said: “The Orionids, which peak during mid-October each year, are considered to be one of the most beautiful showers of the year.
“Orionid meteors are known for their brightness and for their speed. These meteors are fast—they travel at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“Fast meteors can leave glowing “trains” (incandescent bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) which last for several seconds to minutes. Fast meteors can also sometimes become fireballs.
“Look for prolonged explosions of light when viewing the Orionid meteor shower.”
We intersect Halley’s orbit not once, but twice each year. In early May, we see bits of this comet as the annual Eta Aquariid meteor shower.
The best viewing of the Orionids will be from a dark location, away from artificial lighting, shortly after midnight on Wednesday evening.
NASA advised: “Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair.
“Lie 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, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.
“In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”