Orionid Meteor Shower to Peak This Week

Milky Way and Meteor from Roa Island GRAHAM KIDD

Milky Way and Meteor from Roa Island GRAHAM KIDD

The Orionids happen when earth passes through the tail of Haley's comet that's been left behind from previous passes.

Comets are like big, dirty snowballs, more than anything else, that hover near the outer edges of the solar system in perpetual cold and dark. Although the comet itself is nowhere near Earth, we're now intersecting the comet's orbit.

The Earth crosses Halley's Comet's dusty wake twice each year, once in early May and mid October.

The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest and brightest among meteor showers because the Earth is hitting the stream of particles nearly head-on, according to Space.com.

While the Orionids have been visible since the beginning of the month, the shower will peak in the small hours of October 21 and 22.

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Tom Kerss, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, said: "The Orionids is a modest shower, producing around 20 meteors per hour at best under absolutely flawless conditions".

By this time, the Moon will have set. Orion doesn't rise above our eastern horizon until about 11 p.m.in mid October, so don't expect to see many meteors before midnight.

The Orionids derive their name from there point of origin next to the Orion constellation, which ascends in the east. This is because the Earth rotates us more in the direction of Orion as we approach sunrise.

"In reality, you'll see far fewer, because your local conditions are variously less than ideal, but Orionid meteors are known for their speed and brilliance, so if you persevere there's a good chance you'll see several bright "shooting stars" zipping across the sky".

People hoping to spot Uranus should look for a blue-green body, visible to the naked eye when looking to the southeastern sky. His Celestial News column appears in the Steamboat Today newspaper monthly.

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