The skies are putting on an amazing meteoric light show that starts now and continues throughout November.
It all starts with the Draconid meteor shower, which peak on Oct. 7. Appearing to originate from the constellation Draco, skywatchers can expect to see as many about 10 to 20 meteors per hour during this year's annual display.
But that's just the start of more than six weeks of meteor shows. Following on the heels of the Draconids are the Orionids.
Starting in early October, the annual shower is associated with Halley's comet. Each year, Earth passes twice through the stream of debris left behind by Halley's comet, Science Alert points out. When that debris burns up in Earth's atmosphere, the result is a light array of meteors.
Although Orionid meteor activity has already started and will continue until Nov. 14 this year, it's expected to peak before dawn on Oct. 21. That's when sky gazers should see the most action. During peak Orionid activity, NASA says you can expect to see as many as 20 meteors an hour.
Unfortunately for visibility, the moon will be shining during the shower's peak. In fact, that will be just days after a full Hunter's moon comes on the night of Oct. 15, points out EarthSky. That moonlight may make it more difficult to see the showers during the Orionids' peak.
If you're gazing at the sky the days before and after that peak night, you may be lucky enough to see a handful an hour — or you might see none at all.
The Orionids get their name because they occur near the Orion constellation. Technically, NASA says the radiant, or the point where the meteors look like they are originating from, will be just to the north of constellation Orion's bright star, Betelgeuse. Though it looks like Orion is the center of all activity, you should be able to see the meteors wherever you're looking in the sky.
With a speed of 41 miles per second, Orionid meteors are known for being "bright and quick," NASA reports. Occasionally, they can surprise viewers with a very bright meteor that lights up the sky, even on a moonlit night.
The Orionids will still be lighting up the sky in early November when the next meteor shower starts. The Leonids, named after the constellation Leo, begin the first week of November, but reach their peak around Nov. 17. During peak activity, you can expect to see as many as 15 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, this year a near-full moon will "likely upstage the show," says NASA.
The best time to try to see meteors, says EarthSky, is the dark hours before dawn. They advise settling down for an hour or more in the country somewhere with wide open sky where you can lie on a blanket and stare up at the sky. Give your eyes about 15-20 minutes to adjust to the darkness before you start watching the sky.