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Orionids Meteor Shower set to light up weekend skies

Orionids Meteor Shower set to light up weekend skies
Photo of Orionids Meteor Shower taken at Middle Falls, located just outside the city of McCloud near Mount Shasta, CA in 2011. ©Goldpaint Photography

The famous Halley's Comet isn't due back around in person until 2061, but you'll get to see part of the comet this weekend, weather permitting.

Saturday and Sunday mark the peak of the Orionids Meteor Shower, which is the annual shower caused when Earth passes through the dust debris left over from Halley's Comet's earlier visits.

The best time to see the comets will be in the very early morning hours Sunday from 2-5 a.m., although that's not to say you won't see some shooting stars late Saturday night.

"We expect to see about 25 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Sunday morning," says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "With no Moon to spoil the show, observing conditions should be ideal."

The meteors will be coming out of the Orion constellation -- that's the one with Orion's 3-star belt with the bright Sirius Star (Orion's trusty dog companion) off to the bottom left. But you'll be able to see the comets anywhere in the sky. Just look up.

The only challenge, of course, is the weather. It won't be crystal clear but there should be some clearing breaks in between the clouds Saturday night. Just bundle up -- it's set to be one of the cooler nights of the year so far with temperatures falling into the 30s in the outlying areas to near 40 in Seattle.

Cooke says these streaks will be faster than the big Perseid meteor shower in August. That's because the Earth's elliptical orbit is closer to the sun now and its relative orbital speed is faster.

"Be prepared for speed," he adds. "Meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike Earth's atmosphere traveling 148,000 mph. Only the November Leonids are faster."

As always, if you get some photos, like Brad Goldpaint did above, we'd love you see them. You can submit them at our YouNews section.