See ‘very bright’ shooting stars as stunning meteor shower peaks over Suffolk and Essex
PUBLISHED: 12:12 21 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 21 October 2020
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A meteor shower over Suffolk and Essex is expected to peak tonight and tomorrow - with up to 25 “very bright” shooting stars an hour.
Although it will be cloudy early on, the good news is that clearer skies are expected from midnight and into the early hours.
So if you stay up late or set your alarm, you could be rewarded with a sight of the Orionid meteor shower, which can be seen with the naked eye.
The spectacle, this year peaking from October 21-22, occurs every year as Earth travels through the debris from the famous Halley’s Comet.
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Astronomer Neil Norman, from Hadleigh, said: “The meteors are very bright - people certainly won’t miss them.
“The good news is we are due a nice clear spell from midnight tonight onwards, so there is a good chance to see them. The other good news is the moon will be gone by then too, so even better.
“Tonight is the best night, but if there’s clear sky from now up until Sunday, people will see something.”
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Weatherquest forecasters also said clear skies were expected over the region in the early hours tonight.
Mr Norman said the meteor shower is called the “Orionids” because it appears to come from that constellation, starting at around midnight and getting higher until dawn.
The meteors will appear near the red supergiant star Betelgeuse, which is in the top left of the constellation.
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You can expect to see about 20 meteors per hour from around midnight until dawn. They are usually big and bright and appear to glide through the sky as they burn up in the atmosphere 30km above ground. They travel fast, around 67km/41 miles per second or 149,875 miles per hour.
Views will be clearest from rural locations away from street lights and where you can scan the whole sky.
Ian Lauwerys of North Essex Astronomical Society said: “Anywhere with a view of the sky and preferably away from light pollution will do. You don’t need to look in any particular direction, just upwards and try to take in as much of the sky as possible.
“The forecast is for some clear patches after midnight tonight, which is the best time to see the Orionids in any event as the peak is around 2am. You will generally always see more meteors after midnight as we’re then facing in the direction of Earth’s travel around the Sun. It’s a bit like bugs hitting a car windscreen.”
Halley’s Comet takes 76 years to orbit the sun and is currently at the orbit of Neptune, some four billion miles from the sun. Halley, It was last at perihelion (closest point to the sun) in March 1986 and will next be closest to the sun in July 2061.
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