Orionid meteor shower expected to peak this week

Weather Blog

Orionid meteor shower 2006 – NASA | CREDIT: Tunc Tezel

The annual Orionid meteor shower typically runs from October 2nd to November 7th… with 2020’s expected peak to come in the early morning hours on Wednesday, October 21st.

What is the Orionid meteor shower?

Meteors are pieces of debris (ice, rock, dust, etc.) left behind by comets, burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. In the case of the Orionids, Earth is passing through the debris trail behind Comet Halley. The intersection of orbits typically occurs during the second to last week of October (20th-22nd) every year.

Halley’s Comet – parent to the annual Eta Aquariid (May) & Orionid (October) meteor shower | COURTESY: NASA

With a typical year showing 10 to 20 Orionids per hour at peak, this annual meteor shower isn’t known for putting out the most number of meteors, but rather, meteors moving very fast. They’re said to be crashing through the Earth’s atmosphere at ~41 miles per second, 60 miles above the surface. And although their brightness tends to be fainter than others, a large number of Orionid meteors are said to have noticeable trains, or visible ionized gas trails that last for a few seconds after the meteor disappears.

Where & when to look?

In the days leading up to peak, it’s certainly possible to catch a handful of Orionid meteors gracing the sky just before dawn. You’ll want to find a dark location (away from light pollution) and look in any direction. The meteors can streak through all parts of the sky from the shower’s radiant (point at which the meteors appear to “radiate” from), which in this case, will be near the Orion the Hunter constellation rising in the east after midnight.

Orion the Hunter constellation | COURTESY: Planet Guide

Visibility & forecast

The current moon phase is a waxing crescent (7.2%) approaching first quarter on October 23rd (50%). This will allow for decently dark skies leading up to the peak. Cloud cover will be scattered to broken over the next few nights here in Central Texas.

For more information on the annual Orionid meteor shower, visit EarthSky.org

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