Orionid Meteor Shower in October

This is the best time of the year to catch a glimpse of the annual Orionid meteor shower.

You should start to see meteors as dusk settles across our planet on the night of October 20th, and are most likely to reach a visible peak in the early hours before dawn on October 21.

How many meteors will I see?

It's expected from previous years, that you may be lucky enough to see up to 15 meteors per hour - but as with every night sky event, light pollution, and moonlight can affect this.

When is the best time to see meteors?

The best time to see meteor showers is always in the night hours between dusk and dawn.

What are meteors?

Sometimes called shooting stars, meteors are small dust-sized pieces of icy comet debris. Each year, the Earth passes through the debris, leading to some of it burning up in our atmosphere. It is that which you are seeing streaking across our night sky.

Orionid Meteor Shower origin

The debris normally burns up around 100km (~60 miles) above us. Sometimes if they make it through the atmosphere they can fall to Earth - these hardy meteors are then known as meteorites.

Where do the Orionids come from?

By Professor Edward Emerson Barnard at Yerkes Observatory, in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Orionids come from debris left behind by one of the most famous comets, Comet Halley, pictured above.

The comet last passed by the Earth in 1986 (I can remember seeing it from my auntie's kitchen window, in the Cornton, Stirling). It's not due to make another appearance until 2061, however the debris it leaves behind remains in the same place each year, which is why we get to see the Orionids and other meteor showers regularly.

Why are the Orionids not called the Halleys?

Meteor showers are named after the radiant. This is the point in the night sky they appear to originate from. In this case, the constellation closest to the radiant is Orion the Hunter, hence the name, the Orionids. You can see the radiant clearly on the video below, close to the waning moon.

Where can I see the meteors?

Although they appear to come from the radiant near the constellation Orion, meteors can be seen all over the night sky, on both hemispheres.

Can I take pictures of a meteor shower?

Of course you can. You just need to plan it out. There is a guide you can find below:

What else can I see this time of year?

This is a fantastic time of the year to catch a glimpse of the Aurora.

If you're looking for tips on how to photograph it, and perhaps catch a meteor in the background, please click here.

Wrapping it all up...

Look up during the dark hours over the 19th to 22nd of October each year, and you may be lucky enough to spot up to 15 meteors per hour, called the Orionids, originating from the famous Halley's Comet.

All the best, Mark

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