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Meteor shower peaks this week

 

October 17, 2019



The Orionid meteor shower and all its glory will be visible this coming week. The peak times to catch the show will be on the mornings of Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 21-22, just a few hours before dawn. This will be around 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.; however, getting out for a 2 a.m. showing can show to be lucky as well.

Every year the Orion meteor shower comes into view in the proximity of October 2, and it finishes up right around November 7. This is the time of the year when Earth is passing through the debris that has been left over from Halley’s Comet, the parent comet of the Orionid meteors. Because the Earth is hitting the debris from Halley’s Comet dead on this time of year, the Orionids are some of the fastest meteors that shoot across the sky.

The one downside to this year’s meteor shower will be the possible light pollution coming from the moon. This moon will be in its last quarter phase for October 21 and 22, with a 51% visibility, meaning there is a remote chance of disruption when you are out stargazing anytime other than the few hours before dawn. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com earlier this year, “The saving grace for the Orionids, if you go out the last hour or two before dawn, the moon might have set in time for you to catch a view.”

As always, the number of meteors in any shower perpetually increases after midnight; and because of the Earth’s closeness to Halley’s passing debris, there will be meteors that will overcome the moon’s glare.

All meteor showers get their names in correspondence to which constellation they emanate the brightest from. The Orionid meteor was named after one of the more prominent and distinguishable constellations in the sky; Orion. The three stars that form Orion’s belt are the most noticeable stars in this star system. Cooke told Space.com that he predicts the showers to peak at right around 80 meteors an hour, and at slower times 20-30 meteors an hour. Every year varies slightly.

You can catch this meteor shower anywhere across the sky as long as you are able to locate the constellation of Orion. Keep in mind you don’t want to stare directly at the constellation, the stars will drown out any meteors passing by. It’s best to look just off to the side, and away from Orion. You will want to be outside for a good 20 minutes to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. If possible, get far away from any city lights that will hinder the show; and don’t forget to bring the thermos full of coffee and a warm blanket.

 

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