In the early hours of October 21st, the ‘Orionid’ meteor shower will light up the night skies. Every year in mid-to-late October, Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from comet Halley, and the pre-dawn sky lights up with a pretty display of shooting stars.
Expect to see about 25 meteors per hour, when the shower peaks on Friday morning, Oct. 21st. Because these meteors streak out of the constellation Orion, astronomers call them ‘Orionids.’
The Orionid meteor shower isn’t the strongest but it is one of the most beautiful showers of the year. The reason is its setting. The shower is framed by some of the brightest stars and planets in the heavens.
Constellations such as Taurus, Gemini and Orion provide a glittering backdrop for the display. In the morning of October 21st, blazing pieces of Halley’s comet will light up the sky.
To see the show, experts suggest going outside one to two hours before sunrise, when the sky is dark and the constellation Orion is high overhead. Sit down on a chair with a broad view of the heavens. Although Orionids emerge from a small area near the shoulder of Orion, they will spray across the entire sky.
Be prepared for speed. Meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike Earth’s atmosphere traveling 148,000 mph. Only the November Leonids are faster.
Speed is important because fast meteors have a tendency to explode. Occasionally, Orionid fireballs will leave incandescent streams of debris in their wake that linger for minutes.
Such filaments of meteor smoke twisted by upper atmospheric winds into convolutes shapes can be even prettier than the meteors themselves. It really is a wonderful morning to awake. Just don’t plan on going anywhere in a hurry.