There are several astronomical events taking place this weekend. All are free, and the weather forecast currently looks very good for sky watching throughout the weekend.
The Duke Teaching Observatory is opening its telescopes to the public Friday at 7:30 pm. The facility is essentially an open field with sturdy mounts for telescopes used by physics students, so dress appropriately. I had my first view of Neptune through a good telescope here last year. >Directions are available on their website. I find putting the coordinates into a GPS the easiest way to get there.
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center hosts its monthly skywatching session Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. Volunteers from the Raleigh Astronomy Club and Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society share their telescopes and knowledge. Planetarium educators also conduct a tour of the constellations and their stories. Directions
are also available on the center's website.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks this weekend with up to 25 meteors per hour expected in the pre-dawn Sunday morning. The further you are from the lights of cities and suburbs, the more you'll see.
Also called "shooting stars," meteors aren't stars at all. This meteor shower is produced each year as Earth passes through the trail of ice, dust and debris left behind by Halley's comet when it last visited Earth in 1986.
Look to the south for the constellation Orion. The three stars making up Orion's belt are easy to find. The meteors will appear to come from above the orange-colored star Betelgeuse in Orion's shoulder but are expected to fill the sky with fast-moving meteors.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.