Check out the 2012 Orionid meteor shower this weekend for an awe-inspiring astronomical display. On Saturday, October 20, just before dawn, the meteor shower will peak during an (almost) new moon, meaning that in rural areas, the sky will be dark enough to see tons of shooting stars with the naked eye.
Venus, Mars, and Sirius (the dog star), will also be perfectly visible that night, along with the brighter winter constellations, including Orion, Gemini, and Taurus.
“Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, the source of the Orionids,” said Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “Flakes of comet dust hitting the atmosphere should give us dozens of meteors per hour.”
According to NASA, the yearly Orionid shower normally produces about 20 meteors per hour, but meteors have been seen at a higher rate than usual the last few years.
If you’re stuck in a city or well-lit area, or have questions about the shower, you can watch live footage of Orionid and chat online with NASA’s Mitzi Adams on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EDT. For more information or to participate in the live chat and viewing, click here to check out the NASA Chat page.