Prime Viewing: Catch the Orionid Meteor Shower at Its Peak
There is an opportunity to observe shooting stars and potentially fireballs during the annual Orionid meteor shower. This meteor shower takes place in October every year and is considered one of the more captivating meteor displays of the year. According to EarthSky, an astronomy website, the 2023 Orionid meteor shower began on September 26 and will continue until November 22, with the peak expected on October 21-22.
Dust and debris left by Halley’s Comet
These meteors are a result of Earth’s passage through the residual dust and debris left by Halley’s Comet. It is a well-known comet with a long observational history, as noted by NASA. Halley’s Comet also plays a part in creating the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, a celestial event that graces our skies each spring. NASA states that Comet Halley completes a single orbit around the Sun approximately every 76 years. The most recent sighting of Comet Halley by the general public occurred in 1986. Comet Halley is not expected to re-enter the inner solar system until the year 2061.
What sets the Orionid meteors apart are their brightness, speed, and distinctive streaks of light that can last for several seconds to minutes. This meteor shower is also known for occasionally producing fireballs, which are exceptionally bright meteors visible over a wide area.
Orionid Meteor Shower’s Peak Times
For the best chance to see Orionid meteors, it is recommended to look towards the southeastern sky, about 45 to 90 degrees away from the constellation Orion, which gives this meteor shower its name. This angle will make the meteors appear longer and more captivating.
If locating Orion is challenging, you can use a stargazing app or simply face the southeastern sky and allow your eyes about half an hour to adjust to the darkness. It’s also suggested that you find a location free from the glare of urban lights for optimal viewing.
If you happen to spot a fireball, you have the option to report it online through the American Meteor Society, which contributes valuable data to our understanding of these celestial events.