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Orionids meteor shower set to peak this weekend

The Orionids meteor shower is expected to peak on Saturday night Credit: PA

Look up to the sky this weekend, and you might catch a glimpse of one of the greatest natural spectacles of the year: The Orionid meteor shower.

The annual event, which happens when Earth passes through debris from Halley's Comet, produces between 20 and 80 meteors every hour.

Astronomer Tom Kerss, from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said weather and light pollution would mean people would most likely see fewer than that - but said it's still worth gazing skyward.

"Orionid meteors are known for their speed and brilliance, so if you persevere there's a good chance you'll see several bright 'shooting stars' zipping across the sky," he added.

Experts advise looking east for the best chance of catching sight of a 'shooting star' Credit: AP

The shower is visible throughout October, but is expected to reach its peak on Saturday night into Sunday morning, when the new crescent moon sets before the Earth's rotation brings the meteors up from the east.

"If you can brave the cold, make a plan to stay out between midnight and 3am on Sunday morning to give yourself the best chance, and enjoy the thrill of seeing tiny flecks of Halley's Comet disintegrate at hypersonic speeds above your head," Mr Kerss said.

"There's no advantage to using binoculars or a telescope, your eyes are the best tool available for spotting meteors, so relax and gaze up at the sky, and eventually your patience will be rewarded.

"Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, though if you have to pick a direction, you might fare slightly better looking east."

The 'shooting stars' are generated when the meteoroids from Halley's Comet strike Earth's atmosphere at of 148,000mph, (238,000kph), burning up in streaking flashes of light which can be seen with the naked eye.