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Orionids Meteor Shower 2012: How to Watch Tonight's Meteors

The Orionids meteor shower promises to be a show worth watching.

The Orionids Meteor Shower, the offspring of Halley's Comet, began putting on a show Monday in the skies over Southern California, but in the early morning hours before dawn Sunday, the shooting stars are expected to put on a more dazzling display.

Each year, Earth passes through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet beginning, which gives us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower.

The shower should be at its peak night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on Sunday, Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at approximately midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that—barring cloud cover—you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.

What makes this shower so cool? First of all, c'mon—it's a show of shooting stars.

Also, though, there's no question about where to look for this one. Meteor showers get their names from the constellations in the sky where they can be spotted. And what's easier to spot than Orion the Hunter?

The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twinsLeo the Lion and finally, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see—well, aside from the sun.

There's also something else that's special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.

The Taurids meteor shower will also start this month and meteors should be visible beginning on Oct. 20, according to Monrovia resident and JPL scientist Jane Houston Jones. Jones said in her monthly "What's Up" video for JPL that Taurids will peak in November.

The showers are best spotted in the wee hours, which means some local areas may be closed. In areas closest to Glendora, the Angeles National Forest ranger station recommends that you go to any area where there is plenty of dark sky and less city lights. Some turnout areas along Glendora Mountain Road may be ideal, however forest officials remind those watching the meteor shower to practice safe driving and be mindful of their surroundings. Roads into the forest can be very dark, narrow and winding.

Remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch. If you can't head outdoors during the meteor shower, you can catch the action online.

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