Shooting stars will be flying early in the morning, but it promises to be a show worth watching.
The offspring of Halley's comet are about to put on quite a show over the skies of St. Michael-Albertville.
Earth passes through a stream of debris from Halley's through Sunday, Oct. 21, which gives us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower, though you probably won't see much until the recent cloudy conditions move on. Skies should be perfect this weekend.
The shower should be at its peak the night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at about midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that -- barring cloud cover -- you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.
What makes this shower so cool? First, c'mon -- it's a show of shooting stars.
Also, though, there's no question about where to look for this one. Meteor showers get their names from the constellations in the sky where they can be spotted. And what's easier to spot than Orion the Hunter?
The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twins, Leo the Lion and then, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see -- well, aside from the sun.
Something else special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.
St. Michael is far enough from the Twin Cities' urban centers for light-pollution to avoid star- or meteor-gazing. That is, if you stay away from places like parking lots and schools. (See a light pollution map of Minnesota at the Minnesota Astronomical Society's web page.)
If you want to try to catch a glimpse at the Orionids Meteor Shower, here are some viewing options:
Highlands Park: With a nice, elevate spot and a good distance from any light pollution in the city, it could be an ideal place to set up your own telescope, or just wait for the light show.
Winter Park: On the west side of Albertville, it's far enough from both County 19 and the Albertville Premium Outlets to provide an ideal spot for star gazing.
Crow-Hassan Regional Park: Probably the ideal spot, there's a parking lot, restroom facilities and it's close to the river, which means much less light pollution.
If you're up for driving a bit, Lake Maria State Park is a great location. Directions to Lake Maria State Park can be found here.
Get as far away from city and other artificial lights as possible. Meteor showers are best viewed in really dark skies. Try to keep the moon out of your field of vision, too.
Be patient. It may take your eyes a few minutes to adjust to the light and see the meteors.
You don’t need binoculars or a telescope – that will only limit the amount of sky you can see.