19 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by cabanasalon
Patch Instagram photo by cabanasalon

Orionids Meteor Shower to Peak Oct. 20

Few clouds should be in the sky to mar viewing of the meteors above Alpharetta and Milton.

Orionids Meteor Shower to Peak Oct. 20

UPDATED 1:45 p.m. Oct. 19 with a more favorable, accurate sky cover forecast.

The offspring of Halley's Comet are about to put on quite a show in the sky above Alpharetta and Milton.

Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet that started earlier this week, which will give us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower—though you probably won't see much until a bit later.

The shower should be at its peak the night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at approximately midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that—barring cloud cover—you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.

NASA says the best time to look is before sunrise on Sunday, Oct. 21. That's when Earth encounters the most dense part of Halley's debris stream. Wake up a few hours before dawn, go outside and look up. No telescope is required to see Orionids shooting across the sky.

Where to Watch

Your own backyard works. If you are in a subdivision and can't find a piece of sky overhead that isn't washed out by street lights, consider heading over to the tennis courts – but don't turn on the lights! If you have friends in Milton with an outdoor horse show ring that has some bleacher seats, turn on the charm and convince them to throw a meteor watch party. But you'll probably have to bring the hot chocolate.

Live NASA Chat

Join the NASA chat on the Orionids, planets and constellations that brighten October skies. NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams will be answering your questions via live Web chat on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EDT.

Too Cloudy, Cold, or You Just Can't Leave the Kids Home Alone?

If it's cloudy where you live, or you don't like the cooler temperatures this late at night – or early in the morning – you can visit the same NASA site for a live video stream of the meteor shower. No, it's not the same thing as being outside, but you'll know what to look for when you do get out there.

Stay Warm, Skies Will Be Clear

Bundle up more than usual, since you'll be standing or sitting still. The temperatures will be in the mid to low 40s overnight, according to the National Weather Service forecast. If you are walking the dog, that's jacket weather. But if you are not moving, you'd better layer up and put on a sweater or hoodie under that jacket. Wear a hat or pull up that hood on the hoodie, and consider wearing gloves if you're outside for a while. Consider bringing out the chaise lounge and recline so you don't strain your neck looking up for so long.

A previous version of this article had the wrong day's sky cover listed, so good news, star gazers: At 6 percent sky cover it should be pretty clear to see those meteors streaking overhead..

What makes this shower so cool?

First of all, it's a show of shooting stars.

Also, though, there's no question about where to look for this one. Meteor showers get their names from the constellations in the sky where they can be spotted. And what's easier to spot than Orion the Hunter?

The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twins, Leo the Lion and finally, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see—well, aside from the sun.

There's also something else that's special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.

Obviously, though, you'll have more luck catching the shooting stars if you're in a place not polluted by light.

Are you watching the meteor shower this week? Tell us what you see, and share any pictures by adding them to this story.

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