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Meteor shower 2020: The Orionids peak this week – Here's what to expect from the shower

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The Orionids are an annual meteor shower that is active from around the start of October to the first week of November. But the shower is most active on the night of its peak when the greatest number of meteors crashes into our atmosphere. As they do so, tiny bits and pieces of the famous Comet 1P/Halley burn up at breakneck speeds and produce beautiful streaks of light.

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What is the Orionid meteor shower?

The Orionids are bright, fast and are often considered one of the most beautiful showers of the year although the Geminids in December, for example, are much more active.

The shower begins around October 2 and ends around November 7 each year.

During this window of activity, Earth ploughs through the debris-laden orbit of Comet 1P/Halley, also known as Halley’s Comet.

Orionid visibility typically extends between October 16 and October 26, with the peak falling on the night of October 21 to October 22.

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Meteor shower 2020: Here is everything to know about the Orionid meteor shower (Image: GETTY)

Meteor shower 2020: The Orionids are active each year between October and November (Image: GETTY)

On the night of the peak, astronomers expect anywhere between 15 to 30 meteors an hour.

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According to the US space agency NASA, the meteors crash into our atmosphere at speeds about 148,000mph.

The meteors appear to arrive from the constellation Orion, hence their name, and are visible in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere.

NASA said: “Fast meteors can also sometimes become fireballs: look for prolonged explosions of light when viewing the Orionid meteor shower.

“The Orionids are also framed by some of the brightest stars in the night sky, which lend a spectacular backdrop for these showy meteors.”

How to see the Orionid meteor shower peak this week

Here in the UK, the Royal Observatory Greenwich suggests keeping your eyes peeled for the Orionids on the night of October 21 to October 22.

As with most meteor showers, the Orionids will be best seen between midnight and dawn, when the skies are darkest.

The Observatory said: “Hunting for meteors, like the rest of astronomy, is a waiting game, so it’s best to bring a comfy chair to sit on and to wrap up warm as you could be outside for a while.”

The Orionids will be visible to the naked eye, so there is no need to dust off your telescopes or binoculars.

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Meteor shower 2020: The differences between asteroids, comets and meteors (Image: EXPRESS)

Meteor shower 2020: Lie flat on your back and take in the whole night sky (Image: GETTY)

Meteors are simply too fast to track with instruments and they tend to fly off in all directions once they appear.

One thing to remember though is to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.

So stay away from sources of light pollution and turn your phone off.

The Royal Observatory said: “For the best conditions, you want to find a safe location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution.

“The meteors can be seen in all parts of the sky, so it’s good to be in a wide open space where you can scan the night sky with your eyes.

“But if you trace the paths that the meteors take, they seem to originate from the constellation of Orion.”

Once you find a suitable spot, lie flat on your back with your feet facing the southeast.

Try to take in as much of the night sky at once as possible and give your eyes between 20 and 30 minutes to adjust to the dark.

NASA added: “Be patient – the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”

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