The Orionids could put on a spectacular celestial display this evening (21 October). Gaze upwards and - if the weather remains clear - you could be treated to up to 70 shooting stars an hour as the Earth intersects the orbit of Halley’s Comet.
Here is everything you need to know about the spectacle, including how to see themeteor shower.
What are the Orionids?
The Orionid Meteor shower is caused by dust from the tail of Halley’s Comet burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere, nearly 60 miles above our heads.
We haven’t seen the comet itself since 1986, but our planet passes through its orbit twice a year, bringing the Orionids in October, and the Eta Aquarids in May.
The Orionids are so-called because they appear to originate in the same part of the sky as the constellation, Orion.
When is the best time to see them?
The meteors will actually be visible in the night sky from around Sunday 2 October, but they will grow in intensity towards a peak on the evening of Friday 21 October.
For the best results, you might want to stay up a little later: the best viewing time is recommended as between midnight and dawn, and getting yourself to as dark a location as possible will increase your chances of spotting an Orionid.
Do I need a telescope?
Thankfully, budding stargazers need not splash out on expensive tech to see the Orionids; they will be visible with the naked eye.
You may need some patience though. While the shower has recorded up to 70 shooting stars an hour in previous years, those high intensity peaks are the exception, and the Orionids produce 20 – 25 meteors an hour.
That equates to roughly one every two and a half minutes, so it’s best to get comfortable.
You’ll also need to be alert, with the shooting stars zipping across the sky at an incredible 41 miles per second.
When will the next meteor shower be?
Don’t worry too much if you don’t get outside or it’s too cloudy where you live.
The next meteor shower visible from the UK will be the Leonids, reaching their peak across the evening of 17 November.
If you’re after the Orionids specifically, you’ll have to wait until 21 October of next year.