Orionid meteor shower to peak on Wednesday

The Orionid meteor shower – named because they appear to come from the constellation Orion – will peak this Wednesday.

The annual meteor shower is caused by the Earth passing through dust and debris left by Halley’s Comet, which is visible to the naked eye from every 75 or 76 years.

The meteor shower is visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres during the hours after midnight. Halley’s Comet last appeared within the inner solar system in 1986, and is expected to return in 2061.

Image: A glimpse of an Orionid meteor captured by NASA in 2015

According to NASA, the Orionids “are considered to be one of the most beautiful showers of the year” and the meteors are known for their brightness and speed.

Potentially up to 25 shooting stars can be seen every hour at their peak on Wednesday, around midnight, although the shower itself will continue through to November.

The meteors are travelling very fast, at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s), when the enter Earth’s atmosphere, meaning they sometimes leave glowing “trains” behind them.

These trains are formed of incandescent bits of debris which can sometimes glow for several seconds, and potentially even minutes if conditions are right.

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To spot the shooting stars, astronomers recommend wrapping up warm and finding a dark spot, away from light pollution, and be prepared to wait.

If you can avoid falling asleep, NASA recommends lying on your back with your feet pointing to the south east, and keep your naked eyes open and capturing as much of the sky as possible.

The largest of the fast meteors can also sometimes become fireballs, and NASA advises amateur astronomers to look for prolonged explosions of light when viewing the Orionids.