It's the gas trails that set the Orionid meteor shower, which will peak Wednesday, apart. They might break into bright bits, CNN reports, or they can spread out for several seconds after the meteor has vanished. And it's a fast meteor shower, with Earth hitting a stream of particles from Halley's Comet just about head-on. Orionids have hit 148,000mph. They arrive in Earth's atmosphere at 41 miles per second and vaporize in the upper atmosphere about 60 miles from Earth. The trail of debris is left by the comet as it moves around the sun, per Space.com. Each October, Earth's orbit takes it through the stream of fragments that can be as small as a grain of sand.
This is a good year to catch the show. Moonlight shouldn't hinder viewers in the Northern or Southern Hemispheres. The best looks should fall between 1am and dawn local time; Time and Date has more information, by area. A NASA expert suggested 2am. Going outside 20 minutes or so early will allow your eyes to get used to the dark. Orionid meteors can be spotted anywhere in the sky. Find the shape of Orion, the hunter. The meteor shower should originate near Orion's sword, per Space.com, just north of his left shoulder. Don't stare straight at that spot, the NASA expert said, "because meteors close to the radiant have short trails and are harder to see—so you want to look away from Orion." (Read more Orionid meteor shower stories.)