Stargazers are in for a treat this month when hundreds of shooting stars light up the sky during an Orionid meteor shower.
These meteors streak across the sky each October, starting the 2nd through November 7th - but peak viewing is expected on the morning of October 21.
This cosmic event happens when Earth passes through stream of debris left behind Comet Halley – the parent comet of the Orionid shower.
Stargazers are in for a treat this month when hundreds of shooting stars light up the sky during an Orionid meteor shower. Pictured is the event in 2012
Astronomers note that the meteors can move 148,000 miles per hour into the atmosphere, but leave gas trails in the sky that last for a few seconds.
NASA deems the Orionids as one of the most beautiful showers in the year, which are visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres after midnight.
‘Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair,’ the American space agency shared in a blog post.
‘Lie flat on your back with your feet facing southeast if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or northeast if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.
‘In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors.’
The stunning shower derives from the debris stream left by comet Halley that makes its way to the inner solar system.
This month also brings with it a rare Blue Moon that will be visible across all times zones.
Our lunar neighbor will not shine blue, but the name is given because it is the second full moon to appear in the same month – the first occurs October 1.
The cosmic display happens seven times every 19 years, which means the world will not see the next one on October 31 until 2039.
What makes this event even rarer is that it will be seen in all parts of the world for the first time since World War II.
People in North and South America will have a glimpse of the Blue Moon, along with those in India, Europe and Asia.
The idea of a Blue Moon as the second full moon in a month comes from an article in the March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine, EarthSky reports.
NASA deems the Orionids as one of the most beautiful showers in the year, which are visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres after midnight. This shower was spotted in 2016
This issue published an an article called Once in a Blue Moon by James Hugh Pruett, who referred to the 1937 Maine Farmer’s Almanac, but with a simpler definition.
‘Seven times in 19 years there were – and still are – 13 full moons in a year,’ he wrote.
‘This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two.’
‘This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon.’
A moon can turn blue, but the signing is very rare.
EarthSky notes that sky conditions must align perfectly and contain large particles of dust or smoke to reflect a hue – making it unpredictable to know when one will rise.
Altogether, there will be 13 full moons in 2020, another rarity because most years only see 12.
Explained: The difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks
An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.
A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.
If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.
(Source: Daily Mail)