This year has been a "stellar" year for sky watching. We've enjoyed the Transit of Venus, the Perseids, and even some random - unexplained - lights over Grayson.
And though we're not expecting hundreds of thousands of meteoroids shooting through space during this shower, the upcoming week starts probably the most spectacular of meteor showers, the Orionids - the offspring of Halley's Comet.
Orionid meteors are among the fastest of all shower meteors, striking Earth’s upper atmosphere at 148,000 mph. And fast meteors have a tendency to explode! Many of the fireballs will leave persistent incandescent trains, glowing tubes of ionized gas, that linger long after the initial flash is noticed. According to NASA Science, "such filaments of meteor smoke twisted by upper atmospheric winds into convoluted shapes can be even prettier than the meteors themselves."
The shower should be at its peak after midnight on Saturday, Oct. 20, until just right before dawn on Sunday and with the waxing crescent moon setting before midnight (on October 20), that means a dark sky. Astronomers are predicting we can see around 15-25 meteors per hour.
If you trace the meteors backward, you'll notice they seem to come from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter - thus their name. The Orionids have a broad and irregular peak that isn’t easy to predict.
For that reason, it’s best to view meteor showers with the naked eye as binoculars or a telescope restrict the field of view. From midnight to 2 a.m. looking overhead will probably net you the most views and after that, look towards the west.
A few Orionid facts:
- At 148,000 mph, Orionid meteors are the second-fastest of any annual shower. Only the Leonids of November hit our atmosphere faster, at 159,000 mph
- The Orionid meteor shower is produced by the well-known Halley's Comet, which was named after Edmund Halley. It last passed through the inner solar system in 1986 on its 75-76 year orbit.
Dress warmly, grab your best reclining lawn chair or blanket, a warm toddy or some hot chocolate, wake up the kids and make it a family event. It's going to be a whole MONTH before the Leonids showers make their appearance!