Our Sky Will Be Full of Shooting Stars This Week Thanks to Halley's Comet
The comet hasn't been seen since 1986, but it'll help light up the night tonight and tomorrow with breathtaking meteor showers.
The last time that Halley's Comet appeared in the night sky, both astronomers and star-loving night owls agreed that the rare appearance was a big disappointment. According to Space, the Earth's vantage point of Halley's Comet was the worst in over 2,000 years when it appeared in 1986—but it left something behind that year. While Halley's Comet won't be directly visible again until 2061 (it appears once every 75 years), a trail of cosmic dust known as the Orionids help to create a stunning display of shooting stars every October during the peak of fall. The peak of the Orionids meteor shower is expected to light up the sky tonight and tomorrow night, Space reports.
When the comet's Orionids hit Earth's atmosphere, they glow and energize for just a millisecond; that creates a beautiful streak of light across the sky for all to enjoy, and it can happen upwards of 40 times each hour. You'll see them in the night sky just around Orion's Belt, the constellation that the shooting stars appear to come from. While you can see them in detail with binoculars or a telescope, experts expect you should be able to see the showers with the naked eye in a dark sky.
According to Space, the best time to view the meteor shower is after midnight, but heading outside a bit earlier to let your eyes adjust to darkness can help you see clearer. If you can't stargaze tonight or tomorrow, don't fret; there'll be another opportunity for you to take in the cosmic trail of Halley's Comet come springtime. Earth's own orbit crosses the orbit of Halley's Comet once again in the first week of May, producing a meteor display known as the Eta Aquarids, Space reports.
If you catch sight of a shooting star during either of these annual showers, there's about a 75 percent chance that meteor originated from the nucleus of the original comet itself. It should hold you over until we're graced with a better view of Halley's Comet in 2061.