Orionids Meteor Shower

Halley Comets Fall Orionids Showing can be Spectacular

Orionids Meteor Shower
Leigh Goessl's image for:
"Halley Comets Fall Orionids Showing can be Spectacular"
Caption: Orionids Meteor Shower
Image by: Brocken Inaglory
© Creative Commons

The Orionids Meteor Shower is expected to make its appearance as it customarily does in the second half of each October. In 2012, this cosmic illumination that stems from Halley's Comet is expected to arrive mid-week with it peaking on Sun., Oct. 21.

While some years may have other celestial conditions that dampen viewing for any meteor shower, this year is expected to be a decent year for viewing.

• About Orionids

Meteor showers are typically named for the constellations  they streak from; the Orionids are named for Orion.

Halley's Comet sheds its debris as it makes its journey around the solar system, according to Discovery, and the meteor will give off the image of "shooting stars" streaking across the dark skies.  Orionids is one of two annual meteor showers that originate from Halley's Comet. The other, Eta Aquarids, appears in May.

The showing of Orionids isn't the most prominent when compared with other regular meteor showers that routinely occur each year, however stargazers with clear viewing can still expect to see a spectacular show.

"The Orionid meteor shower isn't the strongest, but it is one of the most beautiful showers of the year," said Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

While some years during Orionids' arrival can see up to 50 or more meteors per hour shooting out, according to several media reports, this year is projected to be 15-25 per hour.

Cooke noted with the absence of the moon in the Sunday early morning hours this year, this time of the day will make for optimal viewing conditions. He believes stargazers can anticipate seeing about 25 meteors per hour during this peak time of the Orionids Meteor shower.

• When to view

Stargazers who want to catch the full effect of Orionids should be prepared for an early wakeup (or a late bedtime for night owls). You can go outside after 11 p.m. and probably see some of the showers.

Experts recommend heading out about one to two hours before sunrise on Oct. 21 when the skies are still very dark. At this time, Orion should be directly overhead. Those who live in congested areas may want to head out of the city away from the lights where the skies are darker.

• How to view

When watching for meteors, for comfort consider a lawn chair, blanket, warm clothing and a thermos filled with your favorite warm beverage. And patience. It always a good idea to keep in mind that meteor showers can be unpredictable, notes Earth Sky.

Said to be a fast meteor show, viewers with optimal sky conditions can expect to potentially see some fantastic streaks of light generating from Orionids because, according to NASA, fast meteors have a higher propensity to explode. In these conditions, brilliant flashes of light can be created.

“Be prepared for speed,” Cooke said. “Meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike Earth's atmosphere traveling 148,000 mph. Only the November Leonids are faster.”

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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