A composite image of every meteor captured in a viewing session for the 2011 Orionid Meteor shower at Middle Falls, near Mount Shasta in California. Credit: Brad Goldpaint/Goldpaint Photography. Used by permission.
The Earth will soon be traveling through the stream of debris left behind by Halley’s Comet, providing the annual sky show called the Orionid Meteor Shower. This usually reliable meteor shower is expected to peak this coming weekend, October 20-21, 2012, and should produce about 25 meteors per hour, according to the McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas in Austin.
How can you see the show?
Northern hemisphere sky map of the Orionid meteor shower. Credit: StarDate
The meteors for the Orionid shower meteors appear to fall from above the star Betelgeuse, the bright orange star marking the shoulder of the constellation Orion, so if you live in the northern hemisphere look towards the southeast, and in the southern hemisphere look towards the northeast during the best viewing times. The best viewing times are usually about midnight to 2 am, or in the hours just before dawn in your area. The quarter Moon will have set about midnight, so it won’t be a hindrance.
As always, for the best view get away from city lights. If your backyard is lit by too many streetlights, look to go to state or city parks or other safe, dark sites. Lie on a blanket or reclining chair to get a full-sky view. If you can see all of the stars in the Little Dipper, you have good dark-adapted vision, say the folks at StarDate, a bi-monthly publication put out by the McDonald Observatory.
Note: the lead image is called ‘Nighted Vail’ by Brad Goldpaint. It is a composite consisting of every meteor captured during the night and includes the Milky Way appearing to ‘crash’ into the illuminated falls. The image was Grand Prize Winner of Outdoor Photographer Magazine’s 3rd Annual Great Outdoors Photography Contest and published in their July 2012 issue.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.