The Orionid Meteor Shower – What Did You See?

by Tammy Plotner on October 21, 2009

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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!

About 

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.

METEOMAN October 21, 2009 at 9:35 AM

You See?!!

Jorge October 21, 2009 at 9:47 AM

What did I see? Billions and billions of water droplets hanging in the air. A fascinating sight, even if a wee bit monotonous.

willowmoon October 21, 2009 at 10:26 AM

Out at the beach in Malibu, Cali. from 11:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M., only a few pale streams across the sky, only one trailing downward to vanish quickly. Over my house at 3:00 A.M., only 2 trailing downward and quickly vanishing, and 1 bright beauty that shot across the sky and took my breath with it.
I wish I could have stayed up for more, but my bed was calling at 3:45.
A total of 6! what’s wrong with my location?
There was some light fog, and squid boats with their bright lights present, could that be it?

Tammy Plotner October 21, 2009 at 11:21 AM

meteoman… i’ve had to delete your link because it called up pop-up pornographic photos and links. i am not a prude, but i cannot allow that where minors can access it.

please feel free to cut and paste your observations in!

willowmoon? my guess is just a bit too early for your local time and the sky conditions. but, hey… 6 is better than none!

pamivanst October 21, 2009 at 11:58 AM

i’m here in the gulf area of texas… it was so cloudy last night, i gave up around 10:30pm and headed for bed, i woke up at 3:30, but decided after looking out the window i would not be able to see anything thru all the heavy clouds. got back up at 5:47am, it still looked like night outside, but the sky was not too terribly dark with the whitened cloud cover. circling the sky with my eyes, i saw a hole in the clouds where i could see a star! so i planted myself in the back yard, stared into the sky key hole… got more comfy in my big patio chair… kept staring… the opened area changed shapes and moved slowly swirled north to eastward… then somewhere around 6:18am while i’m peering into the dark blue area… i see a short white flare come down at me out of the cloud burst above my head and disappear!!! wow!!! yes, out of all the ~ was that? ~ did i just see? ~ i think that mighta? i definitely saw a meteor streak this morning! happy at my victory, i bounced inside to get dressed for work .,pami

willowmoon October 21, 2009 at 7:36 PM

Hahaha! Good move with deleting the porn! I fell for that one!
Thanks, I will remember to wait it out, or catch the late show.
Does this apply to all meteor showers?
Willow.

willowmoon October 21, 2009 at 7:41 PM

One more thing, the sky here was incredibly cluttered with stars last night, all seeming to pull into clusters.
Does this event have anything to do with that?
Tonight, it’s spread out and spacious, appears there’s not as many as before.
Willow.

zbfelt October 21, 2009 at 7:52 PM

I was in rural Virginia, southeast of Richmond. I must have hit the jackpot. I saw 33 from 3-4AM. I saw a couple with a really cool greenish lingering tail. It really picked up from 3:50-4:00 with 10 in those 10 minutes. I found a great viewing spot away from the city with a huge field of view and the conditions were perfect: no clouds, no moon, still 43 degrees out. It was my first experience seriously OBSERVING a meteor shower. It was totally worth it and I look forward to the upcoming Leonids. My only regret is not taking a star chart with me to plot the meteors. I didn’t think I would know how to on my first time, but now I wish I had. I did keep track of the times, however. All in all, a wonderful first experience.

Pvt.Pantzov October 21, 2009 at 11:06 PM

heavily overcast in the pacific northwest unfortunately.

juliagray October 22, 2009 at 1:03 AM

I’m in South Australia, south of Adelaide and got up at 3am to view the Orionids. I saw a dozen large streaks and several short flashes. Biggest one was a nice reddish streak at 3:15am and came from above and in between Aldebaran & Betelguese down towards Pollux (remember Orion is upside down to us). Then there were a lot of short greenish ones that seemed to stay for a second or so, mostly around Orion. The last large one caught me by surprise as it came from way above and to the left of Rigel and again heading down between Aldebaran & Betelguese. I had to head in at 5am to get ready for work but really enjoyed the show.

Paul Eaton-Jones October 22, 2009 at 1:58 AM

In the east of Britain it was 8/8 cloud cover down to 1000 feet and chucking it down 24 hours non-stop. Boo-hoo.

Dori October 22, 2009 at 4:20 AM

I’m not a morning person and because I had to drive a carpool yesterday, decided not to stay up or get up in the middle of the night. However, I went outside about 6:30 a.m. when it was still dark and watched. I never saw any long streaks of light, but as I watched, right around Betelgeuse, I saw a lot of very brief, split-second sparkles– sometimes as many as 10 a minute. Incredibly beautiful! I thought at first it was simply a trick of my eyes, but I saw it too often and from one location only, plus some of the sightings were pretty bright.

jwhite1083 October 22, 2009 at 5:28 AM

It was cloudy until about 5:30 am. I got out just in time to see a big streak all the way to the horizon. After that there were about 10 or 12 smaller streaks and then the clouds drew the curtain on the show.

I was very happy.

bware51 October 22, 2009 at 9:38 AM

Tues., Oct. 20, 2:00am to 3:30 am, HST
Saw 15 meteors, half very bright and one trail glowed for about 10 seconds.

My question is: What was the blinking I observed for about 30 minutes near Orion’s head. It seemed to move about 10 degrees in 30 minutes, then disappeared. Also, seemed to be regular about every 10-15 seconds.???
Any ideas greatly appreciated.

Tammy Plotner October 26, 2009 at 5:52 AM

wow! i want to thank everyone for their contributions! i very much appreciate reading other results and comparing them to what i witnessed and what we know about the orionids.

willowmoon? chances are the one night you saw the stars more “clustered” that it was more transparent and you were witnessing the winter milky way.

bware51? hmmmm… my guess is you were looking at an aircraft that was directly in your line of site and stayed that way until it either went into a cloud or turned enough so you could no longer see its strobe. (i know that sounds pretty incredulous, but i live on very flat ground and have often had to do a double-take when aircraft are coming right at me or heading directly away. they seem to “hang” there forever!)

thanks again, ya’ll!! :D

willowmoon November 3, 2009 at 11:45 AM

Thank you for your answer Tammy, I wondered if that was it!
When researching, the only thing that resembled my view, were lens shots of the “Milky Way”.
I’m such a beginner at this, that I wasn’t sure if I was correct.
Thank you for verifying that.
Willow.
Also, very cool that you had such a great response to your question.

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