The Orionid meteor shower announced its presence with a showy fireball that wowed observers already this week -- but the best viewing for shooting stars may start Saturday night.
Sightings of a fireball streaking through the sky were reported Wednesday evening in Northern California around 7:45 p.m. But Sacramento State astronomy professor Chris Taylor said Wednesday's light show may be a precursor to the meteor shower this weekend.
"The peak is supposed to be Saturday night and Sunday morning," said Taylor. "The best time to look at it is between midnight and dawn. And the place to look is the south."
The constellation Orion, the heavenly body from which the shower derives its name, will be in the south.
The Orion meteors are space debris trailing from Halley's Comet. The earth is crossing through the trail of debris.
Taylor said the best place to observe is in a dark location, perhaps a park in the foothills well away from residential areas. He recommends going up to the Auburn or Placerville areas to catch a glimpse.
"If you try to observe from downtown Sacramento, you will be lucky to observe a handful," said Taylor.
The Orionid shower isn't usually as impressive as the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December, according to the website http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/the-2012-peak-of-the-orionid-meteor-shower. On moonless nights a person can expect to see about 15 to 20 meteors per hour at the peak of Orionid, the site stated.
Viewing will be aided this year by a dark sky. The moon is expected to set by midnight.
"All we have to do is hope for clear weather," Taylor said.
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