Cosmic Spectacle: Watch the Brilliant Orionid Meteor Shower on Saturday, Thanks To Halley’s Comet
By on October 21st, 2011

It’s just the debris left behind by the famous Halley comet, but is enough to light the night sky up. The Orionid meteor shower is one of the most spectacular meteor showers that occur during the year.  The shower will peak on the morning of 22nd  October, but the broad maximum means that  the shower lasts from the 20th  of October to the 24th  of October. This is widely considered to be a toned down version of the famous Perseid meteor shower.

The Radiant of the Orionids lie near Betelgeuse (red giant star) of the Orion constellation

The shower is so named since it appears to  originate from near the Orion constellation. The radiant (the point from where the shower is seen to originate) lies near the red giant star Betelgeuse in Orion (pic above).

When and What to Watch for

This time’s show should be a spectacle, given that the moon will be at its crescent stage and near the horizon at the peak of the shower. The best time to watch for the shower will be around 1:00 AM, while the moon peaks at about 2:00 AM EST.

The Orionid consists of tiny particles of debris from the parent comet of the size of sand grains. This is the trail of rubble that the Halley comet leaves behind as it makes an orbit around the Sun. The shower happens when the Earth moves through this trail. The dust falls’ through the atmosphere igniting due to the friction with the Earth’s atmosphere and causes streaks, which last for some time. These are popularly misnamed Shooting Stars’.

Prolific and long lasting

The Orionid shower is expected to produce about 20 meteors per hour on average, with the maximum likely hitting even 40 per hour, making this one of the most prolific meteor showers. However, due to the smallness of the burning pieces of debris, the shower will be drowned out by any light pollution close to your point of observation.

The signature of the Orionids is the long-lasting trails and the high speed of the particles.

You need not worry if you fail to catch the shower on the morning of 22nd October. You’ll have a chance on the 23rd and 24th as well, but the frequency will be going down steadily. Technically, the shower continues till the first week of November, but you’ll be able to see only a few stragglers’ streaking across the sky.

Happy skywatching.

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Author: Debjyoti Bardhan Google Profile for Debjyoti Bardhan
Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.

Debjyoti Bardhan has written and can be contacted at debjyoti@techie-buzz.com.

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