The Orionid Meteor Shower – What Did You See?

by Tammy Plotner on October 21, 2009

2009 Orionid Meteor by John Chumack

2009 Orionid Meteor by John Chumack

If you had the opportunity this morning to witness the offspring of Comet Halley, then I’m curious as to what you might have noticed about this reliable annual meteor shower.

The Orionid Meteor Shower produces an average of 10-20 meteors per hour maximum, with activity beginning before local midnight on October 20th, and reaches its peak as Orion stands high to the south about two hours before local dawn October 21st. The radiant (or point of origin) is roughly between Betelgeuse and the “feet” of Gemini. Also on an average is the magnitude – 3 – and most people describe the appearance as fast.

As a seasoned meteor-watcher and reporter, I document times, magnitudes, length of trails, duration, activity, numbers, etc. By the book, the Orionids behaved pretty much as they should have. They reached the predicted average fall rate, came screaming into our atmosphere at 140,000 mph peaking at the predicted local time, but this morning I noticed a little something different. Rather than branch out around the radiant like spokes on a wheel, the bulk of the activity seemed to occur down a narrow corridor.

Check out this time lapse video by John Chumack

On speaking with John, I noticed we both picked up on the same peak activity time – around 10:00 UT. And, upon reviewing his film, I also noticed it captured what I witnessed… The strong activity was centered on area about 10 degrees wide that ran right up the center of the constellation of Gemini. Of course, it’s natural that John and I should get relatively the same results since my observing station is only about 150 km to his north… But I’m curious!

For those that had an opportunity to observe the Orionids from a much different location, did the activity seem to be centered on a certain area at a certain time? Did the majority of the meteors seem to be brighter than the average magnitude 3? Please feel free to post your comments here!


Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

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