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(www.csmonitor.com) Are you ready for some meteors? Tuesday night party! Well, that's how the song might go if Hank Williams Jr. was singing the pre-game to tonight's Orionid meteor shower.
But as far as we can tell, Williams isn't adding this to his Monday Night Football schedule and we couldn't find the pre-game party anyway.
But that doesn't mean the show's not going to go on. Anything but. Tonight and tomorrow morning are the peak viewing times of the Orionid meteor shower.
Monitor colleague Pete Spotts suggests you don't go to sleep tonight. Or if you do, do it now and set your alarm for 1 a.m. because that's when -- as Deoin Sanders would say -- it's "prime time." (By the way, the 1 a.m. schedule is good no matter what time zone you live in, which makes it convenient to remember).
The viewing should be good until dawn. Right before sunrise could even be the best time to view.
That's a lot of rocks
Although the Orionids historically have produced between 10 and 20 meteors an hour, it's trending high.
"Since 2006, the Orionids have been one of the best showers of the year, with counts of 60 or more meteors per hour," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.
Many meteor scientists believe that 2009 will be more of the same -- lots of meteors.
I need GPS
That's good news for skywatching enthusiasts. But what if you're not an astronomer. How do you know where to look?
We advise -- up.
Really, that's all you need to know. It's not like you are trying to find Uranus. It's not a fixed location. The Earth is moving into the field of meteors so they can be viewed anywhere in the night sky.
And don't worry about your house getting flattened or anything. What we're seeing is just cosmic dust -- remnants from Halley's comet -- entering our atmosphere. (If your house does get flattened though, don't call us).
Plan of attack
To maximize your chances of seeing some meteors tonight, go to a remote location where there isn't much light pollution. Wyoming, for example, is really good for that.
Next, let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Be patient. Don't bother bringing a telescope as it won't be any help. Then, sit back and relax and get ready for the show.
By the way, the Orionids picked a good night to enter our atmosphere. NASA's Dr. Tony Phillips says it's a gorgeous night to look up.
"The [meteor] display will be framed by some of the prettiest stars and planets in the night sky," Phillips said. "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."