Looking for an excuse to break out the telescope? Night skies around the world should have some great views this week as the Orionid meteor shower makes its yearly appearance along with a rare planetary convergence.
While Halley’s Comet won’t return until 2061, it leaves enough debris in its path for a spectacular annual meteor shower. Around this time every year, the Earth passes through the comet’s orbit, speckling the atmosphere with fragments of ice and dust. The Orionid meteor shower earned its name from the Orion constellation, where the meteors will appear in the sky, and is scheduled to peak later this week in the predawn hours of Wednesday or Thursday, Robert Martin writes for Weather.com.
"These are such fast-shooting stars, they only last for a second or so, so observers should keep their eyes glued to the sky or you'll miss them," astronomer Bob Berman tells Heather Janssen for AccuWeather.com. "Expect to see the greatest number between midnight and dawn, at which time an observer away from light pollution can expect to see one every two to three minutes."
The nighttime light show doesn’t stop with the Orionids: Later in the week, early birds around the world will get a chance to watch Mars, Jupiter and Venus converge in a rare planetary “dance.” All month, the three planets have inched closer and closer, culminating in the tightest planetary trio skywatchers will see until January 2021. Just before dawn on Friday and Saturday will be the best time to view this convergence, Alan MacRobert writes for Sky & Telescope. Skywatchers in the tropics and northern hemisphere will also get a great look at Mercury—just look east before the sun rises.