for National Geographic News
Halley's comet will produce a magnificent meteor shower this week, though the celestial body itself won't return to Earth's skies for more than 50 years.
The annual Orionid meteor shower, which peaks this weekend, is spawned by fragments of the universe's most famous comet.
At its peak, this weekend's shower may produce up to 15 or 20 meteors an hour that can be seen by the naked eye.
Although the Orionids are not the most spectacular of sky shows, meteor enthusiasts look forward to the cosmic event for its consistency in timing and intensity.
"They are pretty much an Old Faithful type of reliable shower," said Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky and Telescope magazine.
And this year the moon is being especially cooperative, setting during the wee hours to produce darkened skies and the potential for more meteor sightings.
"We have a window of moonless sky, so this is one for which regular meteor observers are going to be out," MacRobert said.
The shower should peak during the early morning hours of October 21 but will be visible from October 20 to 24.
The who are curious to see the show might want to brew some coffee. The Orionids are best spotted in the hours between moonset—typically well after midnight—and the start of dawn some 90 minutes before sunrise.
Echoes of Halley's
The Orionids are the result of Halley's comet shedding a layer of dust particles as it orbits the sun.
(See related news photo: "Comet Loses Tail in Space Collision" [October 7, 2007].)
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