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Orionid meteor shower comes from Halley's Comet dust

October 20, 2012 |  9:28 am

Orionid meteor shower

Experts said the best chance of seeing the annual Orionid meteor shower is to get out of the Los Angeles area.

The shower, which occurs each October and will be at peak visibility from after midnight Saturday night to dawn Sunday morning, is the result of dust from Halley's Comet hitting the Earth's atmosphere as the planet travels through space in its orbit around the sun.

Every year around mid-October, the debris hits the edge of the Earth's atmosphere. The debris is moving really fast -- roughly 148,000 mph -- and burns up when it hits the atmosphere, causing the flash of light we see.

Q&A: Orionid meteor show explained

Experts agree that the most important advice to those hoping to see the light show is to get away from bright city lights.

"My first advice for seeing it in L.A. would be to get out of L.A.," joked Bill Cooke, who runs NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, during an interview Friday. He said those trying to see the shower from downtown and other heavily illuminated areas will be able to see some meteors, but will miss most of the 20 or so meteors expected to flash across the sky each hour.

"If you are near bright city lights, you'll only be able to see the brightest meteors," he said.

The best bet for L.A. area residents is to head out of the cities and into the hills, said Laura Danly, curator at the Griffith Observatory.

"One good bet would be Mulholland Drive," Danly said. "If you're a little more ambitious, you could get a great view by going up to Mt. Wilson or Mt. Baldy."

For those who would rather watch from home, Danly said to turn off all house lights and try to get your neighbors to engage in a blackout as well.

"Anywhere that's removed from artificial lights should lend [itself] to a good view," she said.


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-- Wesley Lowery

Photo: Orionid meteor shower as seen earlier in the week in Palo Alto. Credit: Associated Press

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