October 21, 2009: The Orionid meteor shower peaks this week and it could be a very good show.
"Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the Orionids," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Flakes of comet dust hitting the atmosphere should give us 60 or more meteors per hour."
Orionids appear every year around this time when Earth orbits through an area of space littered with debris from the ancient comet. So, if clouds interfere on the 21st, try again on the 22nd or 23rd.
The phase of the Moon favors a good show. The Moon is almost new and completely absent from the pre-dawn sky at the time of the shower's peak. Bright moonlight will not be a problem.
Last but not least, the display will be framed by some of the prettiest stars and planets in the night sky. In addition to Orionids, you'll see brilliant Venus, red Mars, the dog star Sirius, and bright winter constellations such as Orion, Gemini and Taurus. Even if the shower is a dud, the rest of the sky is dynamite.
Set your alarm and enjoy the show.