The highly anticipated peak of the Orionid meteor shower occurred this morning. The bright moon obscured many of the meteors, though some were still visible between midnight and dawn.
In a moonless sky, viewers would have seen about 20 meteors per hour.
NASA’s information regarding the meteor shower:
“The Orionids, which peak during mid-October each year, are considered to be one of the most beautiful showers of the year. Orionid meteors are known for their brightness and for their speed. These meteors are fast — they travel at about 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into the Earth’s atmosphere. Fast meteors can leave glowing “trains” (incandescent bits of debris in the wake of the meteor) that last for several seconds to minutes. Fast meteors can also sometimes become fireballs: Look for prolonged explosions of light when viewing the Orionid meteor shower.”
The meteors’ radiant is the constellation Orion. This is the point in the sky from which they appear to come from. Orion is simply a point of reference for viewers to quickly find the meteor showers and not the actual source.
The Orionids are pieces of space debris from Halley’s Comet that have entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Ice and rocky dust from the comet also produce the Eta Aquarids in May.
According to NASA, “It is actually better to view the Orionids at least 90 degrees away from the radiant. They will appear longer and more spectacular from this perspective. If you do look directly at the radiant, you will find that the meteors will be short.”
Tips for viewing meteor showers:
- Choose an area outside of the city. Find a spot that is free of street lamps or other bright lights.
- Lie on your back with your feet facing southeast if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or northeast if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Be patient if you don’t see any right away. The meteors will be visible between midnight and dawn.
The Orionid shower will continue through Nov. 7. To determine meteor shower activity for your location, visit NASA’s Fluxtimator.
Photo Credit: NASA