Two full moons with a meteor shower sandwiched in between? October has been a fun month for sky watchers.

The annual Orionid meteor shower is already heating up. It generally lasts from early October through about Nov. 7. This year, it’s expected to reach its peak before dawn on Oct. 21.

But don’t wait until then to start watching for meteors streaking across the sky.

This sky show happens each fall when the Earth passes through the trail of space debris (rocky dust and ice) left in the wake of Comet Halley, according to NASA. The space agency explains the celestial show like this:

“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.”

Sky watchers can see 10 to 20 meteors per hour during this meteor shower. You can typically see them anytime after dark, but after midnight is your best bet, and very early mornings are prime time to see these. So if you find yourself up early, say from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., you’ve got a good shot at seeing them if you live in a place with dark skies. In Michigan, early birds have already seen some good meteors as we approach the shower’s peak.

While the radiant for this meteor shower – the spot where the meteors seem to come from – is the constellation Orion, you can usually see these meteors from anywhere in the sky. So get outside early, look up and let your gaze wander.


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