The Orionid meteor shower peaks Oct. 21. Here’s what to expect

For a few days centered on Oct. 21 each year, the Earth sweeps through a swarm of meteoroids known as the Orionids; widely scattered bits and pieces shed by the most famous of all comets, Haley’s Comet.

Actually, this is the second time this year that we will cross this very same stream. We also pass through it at a different part of our orbit for several days during the early part of May, at which time they’re darting out of a different part of the sky and are called the Eta Aquarids. In May, Earth encounters the debris left behind by Halley’s Comet as it moves outbound from the sun, while in October we cross Halley’s inbound path. The comet itself comes no closer than several million miles to the Earth’s orbit, but the dust spreading out from it over time is what causes both the Eta Aquarid meteors of May and the Orionid meteors of October.

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