Do you have plans for the this weekend? Make sure, what ever you are doing, to glance at the sky Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Mother nature promises quite a celestial show.
The Orionid meteor shower will peak about 12:00 a.m. PST Sunday, although there may be meteor sightings before and after, says Karen Randall, director of special projects at SETI Institute. The "shooting stars" will be even more visually prominent because the new moon will be setting about midnight Saturday, allowing for a view unaffected by bright moonlight, according to NASA.
The best time to view is Sunday morning, NASA says: Wake up an hour or two before the sun comes up; the constellation Orion will be high in the sky. You don't even need a telescope; you can just lie down and look up.
While not the biggest shower of the year, the Orionids should provide 15 to 20 shooting stars per hour. Another plus for viewing this weekend: the moon sets early Saturday night. That means the sky will be nice and dark for viewing.
For those of us in dense urban areas with obstructed or nebulous night skies, have no fear. You can still see the Orionid meteor shower live on Ustream. The stream is made possible by a camera mounted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
So, where do you look? That's easy. Meteor showers are usually named after the constellation they originate from. Orion and its famous three-star belt is a favorite feature in the fall and winter sky.
Just look to the southeast and you'll find it. Most of the shooting stars will originate from Orion's club. They'll then streak across Taurus and Gemini and finally through Sirius, the Dog Star.
Another special feature about this particular meteor shower will be the colors. With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, many of the streaks take on shades or orange and green. Many will also produce brief fireballs in the sky.
So, grab a blanket and your favorite beverage, and enjoy quiet Saturday night under the (shooting) stars!