The 2011 Orionid meteor shower, litter that's left behind by Halley's comet, is coming and is expected to peak before dawn on Friday.
The Orionid meteor shower is somewhat a smaller version of the Perseids meteor shower. It happens every October when the Earth passes through the dust that Halley's Comet leaves behind. The meteors are known as Orionids because it seems to come from the constellation Orion, particularly from a region in the north of its second brightest star, ruddy Betelgeuse, according to Space.com.
Whenever the dust particles move into the Earth's atmosphere it stimulates the air molecules through which it passes, and cause them to show off light. The particles are about the size of a grain of sand.
Orion currently appears ahead of us in our journey around the sun, and it won't completely rise above the eastern horizon until after 11 p.m. local daylight time. Around 5 a.m., Orion will be highest in the sky toward the south.
Sky watchers in the U.S. have experienced a bit of a disappointment with meteor showers this year, as the previous Draconids put on a spectacular meteor show, but it favored those in the Middle East and Africa. Even the awesome Perseids were a bit drowned out by a full moon.
Orionids tend to produce around 20 to 25 meteors per hour under a clear, dark sky. They are usually dim and are best seen from a rural location. If you are in urban areas you can still look up, but be prepared to not see much.
It's not going to knock your socks off this year, but if you are out in the desert or up in the mountains, it is certainly worth a look, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, told the Los Angeles Times.
On Oct. 17, Orionid meteors will start appearing at about five per hour, and descend to about the dame rate around Oct. 26, according to MSNBC.
Yeomans told The Times that a large, waning crescent moon will be around when the Orionids meteor shower is at its peak.
The moon has just decided to wash out the meteor storms this year, Yeomans told the Los Angeles Times. They are a subtle phenomena and you really need a dark sky. A bright moon nearby really ruins the show.
The moon is also set to obstruct the peak of the Leonids meteor shower in November.