Look Up! Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Friday, Saturday | NECN
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Look Up! Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Friday, Saturday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Orionid meteor shower will peak tonight and tomorrow morning for a magnificent show in the sky. Michael Brownlee reports for the NBC4 News at 5 on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. (Published Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016)

    There is something magical about seeing "shooting stars" and you'll have your chance from midnight to dawn Friday and again Saturday night.

    Don't get your hopes up that the Orionids will be a spectacular showing though. The end of the full moon, or the waning gibbous moon, will wash out the faintest meteors. If you can find a spot away from the city, you may see a maximum of 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

    Halley's comet is really far away but we are intersecting the comet's orbit. What's really cool about the Orionids is the debris comes from the most famous of all comets. Halley's comet's last visit was in 1986, and it will return again in 2061. The comet is no where nearby but this time every year the Earth intersects with its orbit.

    The meteor shower is called the Orionids because it appears to fan out from the constellation Orion, the Hunter. These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape-Nuts cereal.

    These tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth's atmosphere 80 miles up. Each meteor hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light. They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth. It is inaccurate to call them "shooting stars" because they are bits of rubble.

    You don't need any special equipment to watch, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible. Lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair and keep an eye on the sky.