One of the most well known meteors will make an appearance this weekend. The Orionid meteor shower will peak right before sunrise on Saturday, October 22, 2011. Orionid meteor shower is known as the “cosmic litter” from Halley’s Comet that was last seen in 1986 and is seen every 76 years.
You will be able to start catching glimpse of the Orionid meteor shower on October 17, 2011 when it will drop around five meteors per hour close to Orion. Orion will be highest in the sky toward the south. The peak of the meteor show from Orionid will happen on the morning of October 22, 2011 when you will be able to see approximately 25 to 30 meteors drop per hour. From that point it will slowly wind back down to only five per hour around October 26, 2011. Lasting through mid-November you’ll see a few here and there.
Los Angeles Times reported about how Orionid meteor shower exists and why it’s named such:
“The Orionids occur each October as the Earth passes through a trail of dust left by Halley’s comet. When one of those dust particles — about the size of a grain of sand — enters Earth’s atmosphere, it excites the air molecules through which it passes, causing them to give off light.
The annual shower has been dubbed the Orionids because the meteors appear to be emanating from the constellation Orion.”
There is some bad news with this meteor shower much like the Perseids in August where a full moon blocked the view for the shower watchers. This time around with the Orionid shower, a large crescent moon will be in the view where the meteors are peaking.
The best to catch a meteor shower is away from city lights and head out to a rural area where it’s dark.
Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office explained the matter:
“The moon has just decided to wash out the meteor storms this year. They are a subtle phenomena and you really need a dark sky. A bright moon nearby really ruins the show.”
Yeomans mentioned, “If you happen to be awake at 5 a.m. on Friday or Saturday, and especially if you live away from the city lights, it can’t hurt to look skyward. It’s not going to knock your socks off this year, but if you are out in the desert or up in the mountains, it is certainly worth a look.”
- Halley’s Comet to Put on Meteor Show Next Week (space.com)