Orionid Meteor Shower and the Great Leader Tecumseh
Early Saturday morning the Orionid Meteor Shower will dance above Mother Earth, and it is set to dazzle.
"Although this isn't the biggest meteor shower of the year, it's definitely worth waking up for," said Bill Cooke of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office in a media release. "The setting is dynamite."
The Orionids emerge from their eponymous constellation, streaking through what is known as Taurus, Gemini, Leo and Canis Major. At their peak the Orionids can produce as many as 20 to 25 meteors hourly, though they are best seen in rural areas rather than urban, as they can be masked by urban lighting.
The great Shawnee leader Tecumseh's very name means Shooting Star, or literally, The Panther Passing Across, due to the brightness of a meteor that streaked across the sky as the newborn cried out.
Indigenous shooting-star legends abound, from the Hopi tale of a boy and his mother who hitched a ride on a meteor to the Sun's house so that the boy could find out who his father was, to the Mi'kmaq tale of Feather Woman and her son, banished from the sky by the Morning Star and sent back to earth as a shooting star.
Meteor showers, or shooting stars, have many meanings in indigenous lore. Meteors have also brought bad omens, cured illness and fought off demons.
"Different Native American tribes had different explanations for what things like these were," writes a blogger at the Ohio State University College of Engineering. "Some thought that meteors were omens of sickness and death, others believed that they were spirits on their way to the afterlife. One belief that I found particularly interesting was the Kiliwa belief that meteors were the urine of the constellations Xsmii."
Australian aboriginals do not see a warrior in Orion at all, according to the site Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. The constellation forms a mystical canoe, Larrpan, which carries spirits of the dead to their land, Baralku, as the Yolngu people see it. The canoe returns to earth as a shooting star as a message to their family back on earth: They have arrived safely in the spirit-land.
"At a beautiful and important ceremony, the Yolngu people gather after sunset to await the rising of Barnumbirr, or Morning Star, which Europeans call Venus," the site says. "As she approaches, in the early hours before dawn, she draws behind her a rope of light attached to Earth, and along this rope, with the aid of a richly decorated 'Morning Star Pole,' the people are able to communicate with their dead loved ones, showing that they still love and remember them."
The Orionid Meteor Shower is composed of debris from Halley's Comet, which archeaologists believe is probably depicted here on the floor of this rock petroglyph in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
Scientists will be watching the moon, waiting for meteors to smash into it. With no atmosphere, the moon has little protection against such things.
The Orionids have been increasing since October 17, then will peak before sunrise on Saturday October 22. They will still be visible, though tapering off back to their starting point of five per hour by October 26, according to Space.com, and then ending completely by early or mid-November.