The Orionids promise to scatter dozens of shooting stars as Earth ploughs through a region of space littered by debris from Comet 1P/Halley. The annual meteor shower is typically active from about October 2 until November 7, with meteor activity picking up in mid-October. But the real spectacle kicks off tonight during what is known as the shower’s peak.
According to astronomer Tom Kerss, the Orionids are one of the year’s most reliable showers.
He said on an episode of his podcast Star Signs: Go Stargazing!: “This year, the peak of the shower falls on the 21st, which is Wednesday.
“But wherever you are, I would suggest going out on Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning, and then again on Wednesday evening to see what you can spot.”
And although the Orionids do not produce as many meteors as the Perseids in August or Geminids in December, Mr Kerss expects the shower to be a “solid performer”.
Weather permitting, astronomers believe up to 25 meteors an hour could cross the sky during the peak.
What is the Orionid meteor shower?
Named after the constellation Orion, Orionids are meteors associated with the periodic Comet 1P/Halley or Halley’s Comet.
As the chunk of ice, dust and rock races around the Sun, it leaves behind a trail of debris in its orbit.
Our planet happens to cross this trail every year between October and November.
The debris – often no bigger than a grain of sand – then slams into our atmosphere at breakneck speeds.
As the meteors burn up in the atmosphere, they create bright streaks of light.
How to see the Orionid meteor shower tonight
Keep your eyes peeled for the Orionids starting in the evening tonight.
Meteor showers are typically best seen between midnight and dawn when the skies are at their darkest.
And the lack of a bright Moon this week should aid your efforts.
When viewed from London, the Waxing Moon will dip below the horizon after 9pm BST (8pm GMT).
However, two factors that could spoil your efforts are poor weather and light pollution.
Unfortunately, the Met Office expects heavy rain at times across the southern UK, with some outbreaks of rain in the north, especially far north of Scotland.
Check your local weather forecast to be sure pesky clouds will not obscure the view.
Another thing to consider is finding a dark and cosy place with an unobstructed view of the horizons.
The Orionids will appear to emerge from the constellation Orion in the eastern skies, but will then scatter in all direction.
Stay away from sources of light pollutions, such as buildings and street lamps, and turn your phone off to give your eyes a chance to adjust to the dark.
Mr Kerss said: “The Orionids are fast and typically rather bright meteors.
“So even a small number of sightings can make for a very memorable night.
“Of course, if you are in a rural sight or if you can reach one easily and safely, you’ll get the best possible view.
“If you’re stuck in the city like me, don’t lose heart. You can still see the brightest meteors because they shine just as the brightest stars and the planets do. You’ll just struggle to catch the fainter ones.”