Martinez is about to be showered with shooting stars.
The offspring of Halley's Comet will be putting on quite a show in the skies of Martinez over the next week, as earth passes through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet beginning Oct. 15.
Then, just before dawn on Oct. 21, the Orionids meteor shower will send bright fireballs and long trains dashing through the night sky, originating somewhere near Orion the Hunter's constellation of stars.
The best seat for the show is likely to be the lofty peak of Mount Diablo. The Mount Diablo Astronomical Society will be meeting in the lower summit parking lot in Clayton Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. for a public workshop on how a telescope works. Then, the stargazing continues into the night — with many telescopes available for public use.
The shower should be right at its peak by this point — the night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on 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 show so cool? First of all, c'mon — it's a shower 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 twins, Leo 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.
To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch. So far, it looks all clear for a great star show in Martinez.
Where is the best spot in Martinez for watching shooting stars and the Orionids meteor shower? Share your ideas in the comments.