The Orionid meteor shower peaks this week! Here’s what to expect.


Orionid meteors streak through the starry sky over Big Bend National Park in Texas, in this composite of four shots taken by astrophotographer Sergio Garcia Rill in October 2017. (Image credit: Sergio Garcia Rill)

On a night this past summer, soon after sunset, a number of people gathered at a little-league field, not far from my home, eagerly awaiting nightfall and the appearance of the stars. We had also gathered there because there wasn’t much in the way of light pollution and we were afforded a clear and unobstructed view toward the northwest. As the sky darkened, we finally could see it: Comet NEOWISE, displaying a lovely, curved tail. 

“Not a bad show, considering we’re looking at a cosmic litterbug,” I said to the coterie of comet gazers. “Really, what we’re looking at is a piece of garbage out in space; think of that beautiful tail as ‘cosmic litter’; little pieces of dust and grit left behind by NEOWISE, all cluttering up the solar system.” 

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