Skygazers are set for a dazzling light display on Tuesday as the Orionid meteor shower streaks through our night skies.
The celestial fireworks can be spotted with the naked eye twice a year, cloud permitting, as Earth passes through an area of space littered with debris from the famous Halley’s Comet.
The once-in-a-lifetime Halley’s Comet is next expected to be visible in 2061. If you can’t wait until then, why not try and catch a glimpse of the Orionids.
The name “Orionids” comes from the point in the sky where the meteors will appear to radiate out from, or the radiant, which for this shower is located near the constellation of Orion.
When is the best time to see the Orionid meteor shower?
This year’s shower is due to peak at around peak tonight and tomorrow morning, October 20 and 21, and should produce up to 25 shooting stars every hour travelling at speeds of 148,000 mph.
NASA say the Orionids “one of the most beautiful showers of the year” known for its brightness and speed.
As they hit the atmosphere at 66km/s the meteors will leave glowing “trains” which last for several seconds.
During the peak of the shower tonight you will be able to find it in the South East of the sky, rising around 10.30pm, getting higher throughout the night.
A Met office spokesman said: “Generally this time of year is not the best for stargazing as there is a lot cloud cover across the UK, never mind London.
“For the South East the best opportunity will be after midnight on Wednesday if you can stay up that late I would say that is the best opportunity, as Thursday is quite cloudy again.”
How can I see the Orionid meteor shower?
You should be able to witness the Orionids with the naked eye, but allow plenty of time for your vision to adjust to the dark.
To get the best visibility amateur stargazers should get to the darkest possible site, away from light pollution in a wide open space where you can scan the night sky with your eye.
If you can’t get to the countryside or coast, try a balcony or rooftop, but minimise light.
The Royal Museum of Greenwich advises stargazers to bring a comfy chair to sit on and some warm clothes as you could be outside for a while.
Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomer, Anna Ross, said: “For the best chances to spot them, find as dark of an area as you can, like the countryside or a park. Allow around 20 minutes for your eyes adapt to the dark to see the little points of light travelling very fast across the sky. As meteors move so quickly, its best to look up without using telescopes or binoculars so you can see as much of the sky as possible.
“You don’t have to be able to see Orion to spot meteors, however, as they will be moving away from the radiant across the whole sky in every direction. “