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Orionid meteor shower: Wake the kids, make a memory

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Phil Terzian/AP

(Read caption) The annual Orionid meteor shower was visible starting Oct. 17, 2012 in streaking fireballs over the Montebello Open Space Preserve in Palo Alto, Calif.

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This weekend astronomers at NASA have promised Americans a rare glimpse of a heavenly event – the Orionid meteor shower – and with it, the opportunity for parents to join their children in a sense of wonder they may not have experienced since their own childhoods.

Some parents undoubtedly remember, as kids, waking up in the middle of the night, stepping outside into the forbidden dark, wrapped in robes and blankets for a once-in-a-lifetime view of Halley's Comet passing across the sky. That was 1986 and Halley's Comet won't be visible from earth again for 50 years.

QUIZ YOURSELF: Are you a helicopter parent?
However, this week, fragments of the famed comet have started to splash across the night sky. They started appearing on Oct.17, but are expected to peak tonight and early into Sunday morning dropping as many as 60 visible meteors an hour (visibility, of course, depends on weather).
For families, the shower brings a chance to break from routine and share a profound experience.

It does not matter if parents know that the shooting stars are chunks of frozen rock that originated somewhere past the distant star Betelgeuse as part of the annual phenomenon called the Orionids.

Kids always ask questions – that’s what children do. While adults frequently feel that they should be ready with answers, sometimes a simple "I don't know," can be just as instructional as a researched response.

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