Halley's Comet: Cosmic meteor shower lights up UK skies

Halley's Comet was last seen in 1986 and the next sighting is expected in 2061

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The Independent Online

The UK is set for a spectacular meteor light-show tonight due to Earth passing through debris left by the 1986 Halley's Comet, which appears every 75 years.

The display should be visible without a telescope in the south-eastern direction in places with minimal light pollution such as suburban and rural areas.

Up to 25 meteors per hour are expected to whizz across our skies from 10pm to dawn, near the Orion star constellation, with occasional bright fireballs taking centre stage.

It will be a clear night in most of the country with rain clouds over the north-west of Scotland, according to the Met Office, and a faint new moon will make it easier to see the meteors.

Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said spectators should “be prepared for speed.”

“Meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike Earth’s atmosphere travelling 148,000 mph. Only the November Leonids are faster,” he said.

Also known as "shooting stars", meteors are rock particles that have broken away from the comet and pass through the Earth's upper atmosphere before burning and vapourising.

Halley's Comet is the only short comet visible by the naked eye and was discovered by Edmond Halley in 1705 - although sightings have been reported from as far back as 240BC.

The next sighting of the comet is expected around