Orionids, Dimmed by Moonlight, Will Do Their Best to Shine
Orion the constellation is the hunter, and that is what anyone seeking the meteor shower that emanates from this stellar grouping will have to do this year in the light of a nearly full moon.
The shower, composed of remnants of Halley’s Comet (as are its cousins the Eta Aquarids, which grace our skies in February), will peak on October 20-21. The moon reached fullness, the Hunter’s moon, on the 18th. The fall full moon tends to spend more time in the sky that at other times of the year because of the angle of its orbit.
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“The Orionids are noted for being bright and quick fragments, according to NASA, with an average speed of about 148,000 mph,” Space.com reports. “However, this year's shower, predicted for the night of Oct. 20-21, may be spoiled by moonlight.”
Halley’s comet only swings by every 76 years, so it won’t be back within our sights until 2061, Space.com said. But the trail it leaves as it flies through the solar system is what we pass through as we hurtle around the sun, and it gives us quite a show, when the light is right.
It is possible to see meteors even this time, especially if one looks anywhere but Orion, the radiant. The best viewing begins at 1 or 2 a.m. and stretches till dawn, Space.com said. As with most sky shows, the more rural and dark the location, the more meteors will be visible.
“At its peak, the shower sends 15 to 20 meteors per hour across the sky,” Space.com said. “Additionally, sky watchers can expect to see 5 to 10 sporadic meteors an hour on any night.”
The shower is active from October 2 through November 7, though the peak dates are the 20th and 21st, NASA said in a statement about this year’s Orionids. At their peak there should be 20 meteors per hour, in moonless skies. They are traveling 41 miles per second when they slam into Mother Earth’s atmosphere.
They “are considered to be one of the most beautiful showers of the year,” NASA said.
“Orionid meteors are known for their brightness and for their speed,” NASA said, adding that fast meteors such as these can leave glowing incandescent “trains” of debris in their wake lasting anywhere from several seconds, to minutes.
“Fast meteors can also sometimes become fireballs: Look for prolonged explosions of light when viewing the Orionid meteor shower,” NASA said. “The Orionids are also framed by some of the brightest stars and planets in the night sky, which lend a spectacular backdrop for these showy meteors.”
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