HolidayBuyer's Guide

How to watch the Orionid meteor shower and all its shooting stars

Thursday night's skies will be filled with shooting stars.

Photo by Steve Ryan

If you're looking for some nighttime entertainment later this week, you may want to turn your eyes upward: The Orionid meteor shower is expected to peak Thursday, October 20, through Friday, October 21. According to AccuWeather, you can expect to see around 25 meteors per hour -- assuming cloud cover and the waning gibbous moon do not limit visibility.

The Orionid meteor shower is made up of debris from the well-known Halley's Comet, which appears every 75 years or so.

Here are some tips for maximizing your meteor shower viewing party.

Find some open sky

The best place to check out this year's batch of Orionids -- or any meteor shower, for that matter -- is somewhere away from trees, tall buildings, and light pollution. Ideally, you want to be able to see as much unobstructed sky as possible. National parks and lonely desert highways are perfect viewing spots, but not everyone can take a road trip into the middle of nowhere just to see some shooting stars.

Photo by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

If you can't travel, plug your location into this light pollution map to see if there are any relatively dark lookout locations near you. Once you get to a viewing area, use the Dark Sky Meter app ($0.99, iOS) to measure the darkness and quality of the sky above you.

Photo by AccuWeather.com

Not all areas of the United States will have ideal meteor-viewing weather Thursday night. According to AccuWeather, visibility should be good in the southwest and southeast, but may not be great in the midwest, Pacific northwest or New England. To stay up to date on your area's weather conditions, including cloud coverage, wind speed, and precipitation, you can use AccuWeather's app (free, iOS and Android) to see hourly forecasts and minute-by-minute precipitation info.

Find Orion

The Orionid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Orion -- the meteors appear to originate from this constellation, though they can be seen all over the sky. Orion will rise in the east around 11 p.m. local time and three bright stars in a straight line make up Orion's belt.

Photo by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal/CNET

If you don't know where Orion is, you can use an app such as Star Walk 2 ($0.99, iOS; free, Android) to help you find him. Once you find Orion, turn off your phone and all screens and lights (and look away from the moon) and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for about 30 minutes for the best meteor-viewing experience.

Watch it online

If you can't find a good viewing spot, or if there's too much cloud coverage in your area to see the sky on Thursday night, no problem -- Slooh.com will be broadcasting the meteor shower live from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands. The broadcast will start at 5 p.m. PDT (8 p.m. EDT) and last for five hours.

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