One of nature’s most anticipated light shows is set to reach its climax this week, as space debris and dust trails from the famous Comet Halley spread across the night sky.
The Orionids meteor shower is expected to peak at 2 p.m. ET on Friday, October 21, but it’s best noticed early in that time zone, between the hours of midnight and dawn. Viewed properly, away from any bright lights and light-polluted areas, viewers can expect to see about 10 to 20 meteors per hour during this time, according to EarthSky.
With its zenith, the moon will approach a waning little crescent, and it won’t be bright enough to obscure the sight of meteors. However, Bill Cook, head of NASA’s Meteoritic Environment Office, suggests looking anywhere in the night sky away from the moon to better observe the fireballs.
“It takes about 45 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark, being more sensitive and seeing more precisely. If you look at your bright phone, streetlight, or moon, you will destroy that night vision,” Cook said.
NASA recommends getting out at least 30 minutes before you see meteors, to adapt to the night sky.
“Observing a meteor shower is something that takes time. You should plan to spend a couple of hours or so outside — it’s not a 15-minute adventure,” Cook added.
The meteor shower officially began on September 26 and will last until approximately November 22, so sky watchers will still have a chance to see Orionids after the peak.
Orionids radiate outward from the constellation Orion the Hunter—specifically a point near Orion’s Sword, near the big red star, Betelgeuse—but you don’t need to know the location of that point to see the meteorites; They will appear all over the sky.
No special equipment is needed to monitor meteor showers, and Orionids can be seen from every region of the world, weather permitting.
Origins of the Orionids
While the shower’s name originated from its closest constellation, the meteors themselves are shards of dust left behind by Halley’s Comet as it orbits the sun, a journey that takes about 76 years.
When Earth’s orbit intersects with the path of the comet’s orbit, we encounter Orionids. In early May, we see these same particles at a different point in the comet’s orbit, but there it goes under the name Eta Aquariids meteor shower.
“It happens about once in a person’s life (Halley’s Comet is visible from Earth); once every 76 years, so everyone gets a chance to see Halley’s Comet.” “For those who haven’t seen Halley’s Comet, if you don’t want to wait for it to come back, you can at least go out and see the Orionids.”
Halley’s Comet was last here in 1986 and will return in 2061, but the Orionids come every year. Meteorites tend to be bright and fast-moving, and they often leave static trails that can glow in the sky for a few seconds after they pass. According to Cooke, the only other meteor showers that produce brighter fireballs are the Perseids and Geminids.
In the years from 2006 to 2009, meteorite rates nearly tripled, rising from 20 per hour to 40—and sometimes to 70 per hour. Cook said it was unexpected behavior that resulted from Jupiter’s attraction.
“Meteor showers can surprise you,” he added. “The forecast this year is for normal Orionids behavior, but you never know.”
Other space events this year
There are five more meteor showers you can see in the remainder of 2022, according to EarthSky’s 2022 Meteor Shower Guide:
• November 5: south of Torres
• November 12: North Taurids
• November 18: Leonids
• December 14: Gemini
• December 22: Ursids
There are two more full moons in The Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar for 2022:
• November 8: Beaver Moon
• December 7: Cold Moon
There will be two more eclipses – one solar and one lunar – occurring this year.
A partial solar eclipse on October 25 will be visible to people in parts of Greenland, Iceland, most of Europe, northeastern Africa, and western and central Asia. The total lunar eclipse on November 8 can be seen in Asia, Australia, the Pacific Ocean, South America, and the western half of North America.
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