EarthSky (a really excellent site for those who want to know more about what’s up in the night sky) notes that the annual Orionid Meteor Shower peaks this Saturday, October 21st. FYI, on my walk at around midnight last night, I caught a simply stunning fireball so although the best viewing in the pre-dawn hours, you can for sure see meteors throughout the evening! Also, we’ve been getting a lot of auroral activity lately so there’s a better than average chance of seeing the northern lights too!
The Orionids aren’t the year’s strongest shower, and they’re not particularly known for storming (producing unexpected, very rich displays). But – from a dark location, in a year when the moon is out of the way at the peak (as is the case in 2017) – you might reliably see 10 to 20 meteors per hour at the peak.
…As is usual for most (but not all) meteor showers, the best time to watch the Orionids is in the dark hours before dawn. The peak morning is likely October 21. Do start watching in the days ahead of the peak, though. You might catch an Orionid meteor or two before dawn over the coming days.
Meteors in annual showers are named for the point in our sky from which they appear to radiate. The radiant point for the Orionids is in the direction of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter, which you’ll find ascending in the east in the hours after midnight. Hence the name Orionids.
The Orionid meteors are debris left behind by Comet Halley. The object in the photo above isn’t a meteor. It’s that most famous of all comets – Comet Halley – which last visited Earth in 1986. This comet leaves debris in its wake that strikes Earth’s atmosphere most fully around October 20-22, while Earth intersects the comet’s orbit, as it does every year at this time.
You don’t need to know or be staring toward Orion to see the meteors. The meteors often don’t become visible until they are 30 degrees or so from their radiant point – and remember, they are streaking out from the radiant in all directions. They will appear in all parts of the sky.
However, if you do see a meteor – and trace its path backward – you might see that it comes from the Club of Orion. And, if so, that meteor will be an Orionid. You might know Orion’s bright, ruddy star Betelgeuse. The radiant is north of Betelgeuse.
Ken caught this shot of a fireball & the northern lights over the DH Day Farm in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. See more in his simple massive “skies above” slideshow and view & purchase work through his website.