Just like for centuries, the Orionids Meteor Shower has been occurring each year consistently in October. The dust particles of Halley’s Comet (IP/Halley) enter the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 90,000+ miles per hour. Sounds amazing I’m sure since Halley’s Comet is in orbit around the Sun and was closest to Earth in 1986.
The Orionids Meteor Shower has already started to produce activity in the morning skies around the northern hemisphere. It started October 2nd and will be active until early November. The Orionids has a few days before and after the peak that are more active than other days. This is a unique feature called a “submaxima”. Viewers can anticipate the strongest activity to take place in the morning of October 21st, but the period of days that lead up to the peak and after the peak called “submaxima activity” means that strong outbursts may occur between October 18th and October 24th at any time. So why not have a look as soon as you can? Meteor shower outbursts are nearly impossible to predict.
As mentioned earlier, Orionids enter the Earth’s atmosphere at 90,000+ miles per hour which compared to other meteor showers is consider medium speeds. The Orionids seem to originate from the constellation Orion near the red/orange star named Betelgeuse. This year, the Moon will create a medium amount of light pollution because it will be coming off a last quarter phase. Not only is the Moon a factor, but also man-made sources of light can make it difficult to view this event. Under perfect low-light conditions, viewers may see up to one meteor every three minutes. However, based on the circumstances I’ve discussed, I don’t think this will be the case this year. I do believe the meteor shower is worth observing and viewing for at least thirty minutes to an hour in mornings before and after the peak, October 21st.
To best view this meteor shower, one must go to a safe dark place in the morning and look toward the constellation Orion. The meteors can and will streak anywhere in the sky but will seem to originate from Orion. Orion, the meteor shower’s radiant is where they get their name from. Almost all meteor showers are named after their constellation or radiant, which is the point in the sky where they seem to originate. In May, Halley’s Comet is also responsible for another meteor shower called the Eta-Aquariids where the dust hits Earth at a different angle and the point of entry seems to come from the constellation Aquarius, hence we get the Eta-Aquariids.
The reason why I get so excited about this meteor shower is because it is the first of three meteor showers that are worth looking at before the end of the year. It is also nice to go outside and enjoy clear cool nights watching the stars after a lull in meteor shower activity since early August. The next meteor showers of interest are the Leonids in November and the Geminids of December.
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– Meteor Mark