NASA's Stargazing Highlights For December 2018

On Monday night, star-gazers and astronomy enthusiasts will be treated with a spectacular celestial display in the sky when Orionid Meteor shower peaks. It happens once a year, but deemed one of the best shooting star events among the likes of Geminids in December and Perseids in August.

Generally, Orionids starts in October and ends mid-November. It is said to be one of the most prolific meteor showers with trailed meteors lighting up the night sky. This year, the celestial fireworks will last up to November 7, and the peak will occur on Monday evening. In this phase, the meteor shower is expected to produce 20 to 25 shooting stars per hour that will be visible through the naked eye.

According to Independent, astronomy experts suggest that the best time to witness the star-studded sky is 11:30 pm on Monday. As per the weather forecasters at Met office, the UK will experience high pressure and dry weather on this day. Therefore, the clear skies provide the best opportunity for a good view of Orionids. Early hours of Tuesday morning are also a great time to catch a few glimpses of the shooting stars.

What makes Orionids of 2019 so special is that it will give a glimpse of Halley's comet, which was last seen from Earth in February 1986, and it will not be visible until 2061. Named after English astronomer Edmond Halley, it is the only known short-period comet that can be viewed by the naked eye from Earth. The comet passes the Earth every 70 to 75 years. So, witnessing the comet will happen not more than two times in a human lifetime.

Every time Halley appears in the solar system, it leaves behind its dust and remnants in Earth's atmosphere that becomes Orionids in October or Eta Aquarids in May.

"The Orionid meteor shower is one of the best known and most reliable meteor showers in the annual calendar, visible from across the globe," said the Royal Observatory Greenwich as quoted by The Sun.

A meteor streaks across the night sky.
A meteor streaks across the night sky Reuters

Orionids meteor shower will be clearly visible from both the hemispheres. However, it is important to find yourself a dark location away from bright city light to get the best view of the shooting stars. A park or an open area with an unhindered view of the sky is recommended by the experts.

Meanwhile, the prolific astronomical event does not require any special equipment like a telescope or binoculars. Allowing your eyes to adjust to the night sky for at least 20 minutes will let you enjoy the delightful view immensely.