Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.

Orionid Meteor Shower

By , in Sky at Night

The Orionid Meteor Shower is a medium strength shower that can reach high strength activity. In a normal year the Orionids produce 20-25 shower members at maximum. In exceptional years, such as 2006-2009, the peak rates were on par with the Perseids (50-75 per hour).

The Orionid Meteor Shower is framed by some of the brightest and most beautiful constellations in the night sky. The meteors emerge from mighty Orion, the shower's glittering namesake. From there they streak through Taurus the Bull, the twins of Gemini, Leo the Lion, and Canis Major--home to Sirius, the most brilliant star of all.

Cometary debris streams like Halley's are so wide, the whole Earth-Moon system fits inside. So when there is a meteor shower on Earth, there's usually one on the Moon, too. Unlike Earth, however, the Moon has no atmosphere to intercept meteoroids. Pieces of debris fall all the way to the surface and explode where they hit. Flashes of light caused by thermal heating of lunar rocks and moondust are so bright, they can sometimes be seen through backyard-class telescopes.

The best time to look is before sunrise on Wednesday, Oct. 21st. That's when Earth encounters the densest part of Halley's debris stream. Observing is easy: Wake up a few hours before dawn, brew some hot chocolate, go outside and look up. No telescope is required to see Orionids shooting across the sky.

Orionids appear every year around this time when Earth orbits through an area of space littered with debris from the ancient comet. Normally, the shower produces 10 to 20 meteors per hour, a modest display. The past few years, however, have been much better than usual.

Orionid Meteor Shower
Orionid Meteor Shower

Last updated: 2017-05-27

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