Editor's note: Be sure to check out our reader photo submissions of this year's Orionid meteor shower for some stellar meteor photography.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks overnight tonight (Oct. 21), making this an excellent time to get outside and see some fireballs streak through the atmosphere.
The viewing conditions for this year's Orionid meteor shower are favorable, as the moon will be in a waning crescent phase and will be only 17% illuminated. The Orionids are considered to be one of the most reliable meteor showers after the Geminids and Perseids, and are known to produce dozens of meteors per hour, making this year's shower an excellent opportunity for some late-night skywatching.
The Orionids get their name from the fact that the meteor shower's radiant — the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate — is in the Orion constellation next to the Hunter's club. In the Northern Hemisphere, Orion will be located in the southwestern sky; in the Southern Hemisphere, the constellation will appear in the northwestern sky.
Each year toward the end of October, the Earth passes through a swarm of meteoroids left behind in the wake of Halley's Comet. As these bits of dust encounter our planet's atmosphere, they encounter friction and ignite the air in front of them. Even a tiny pea-sized piece of Halley's debris can burn with enough incandescence to be seen from 60 miles (100 km) below on the ground.
The best time of night to view the meteors will be in the early morning hours on Saturday (Oct. 22) just before dawn. Pre-dawn meteors tend to be brighter than those earlier in the night due to the fact that Earth at this time of night is moving toward the direction in which the meteors are originating. Meteors in the early morning hours will appear faster and brighter than those seen earlier in the night.
To catch a view of the shower, put out a comfortable reclining chair, find an area with as little light pollution as possible and make sure to stay warm. Give your eyes at least 30 minutes to adjust.
Editor's note: If you catch a photo of the Orionid meteor shower you'd like to share with Space.com and our news partners for a story or image gallery, send images and comments in to: firstname.lastname@example.org.