Orionid meteor shower: Stunning lights to be visible across sky as Earth flies through debris of Halley's Comet

Andrew Griffin
A meteor shower will be visible this weekend: CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images

The night sky will be lit up with beautiful shooting stars over the weekend, as a meteor shower makes its way over skies in the UK and elsewhere.

The stunning sights are the result of the debris of the famous Halley's Comet – as the Earth moves through the leftovers, they shine bright in the sky and can be visible along the ground.

That's so long as the cold and cloudy weather doesn't threaten to ruin everyone's view of the spectacle.

The meteor shower, known as the Orionids, appear each year. The showers produce about 20 visible meteors per hour, and run for the entire weekend.

The show is the result of meteoroids from Halley's Comet colliding with Earth's atmosphere at 148,000mph. As they do, they burn up in streaks of light that fly across the night sky and can be visible with the naked eye.

Tom Kerss, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: "The Orionids is a modest shower, producing around 20 meteors per hour at best under absolutely perfect conditions.

"In reality, you'll see far fewer, because your local conditions are variously less than ideal, but Orionid meteors are known for their speed and brilliance, so if you persevere there's a good chance you'll see several bright 'shooting stars' zipping across the sky."

The shower is active throughout October, but Kerss says the best time to see it will be on October 22 between midnight and dawn, when the sky is darkest and the shower will be at its brightest.

Mr Kerss said: "We expect the peak to occur on the night of 21/22 October when the young crescent Moon will set conveniently before the radiant of the shower - the point from which the meteors appear to spread out - rises in the east.

"If you can brave the cold, make a plan to stay out between midnight and 3am on Sunday morning to give yourself the best chance, and enjoy the thrill of seeing tiny flecks of Halley's Comet disintegrate at hypersonic speeds above your head."

He advises finding a secluded spot and allowing the eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Mr Kerss said: "There's no advantage to using binoculars or a telescope, your eyes are the best tool available for spotting meteors, so relax and gaze up at the sky, and eventually your patience will be rewarded.

"Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, though if you have to pick a direction, you might fare slightly better looking east."

Additional reporting by agencies

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