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Make A Wish! Orionid Meteor Shower Sends Shooting Stars

20 Oct 2016, 7:05 am

It’s the time of year when the Orionid meteor shower begins to rain down its greatest number of meteors. The peak time to see them: before dawn on Friday and Saturday morning. That’s when you may see nearly 10-20 meteors per hour.

Remember, the most important thing is to find a dark area away from city lights. All you have to do is lie down and look up! Give yourself at least an hour of watching time for meteors tend to come in spurts and are interspersed by lulls. Remember, that it takes about twenty minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark.

Here is where viewing should be best:

Orion Map

Even for areas that are free from clouds, the moon could limit your ability to see some of the meteors. Since the full moon just occurred this past weekend, the moon will still be bright in the night sky and the glare could obscure much of the meteor shower.

Meteor showers that occur annually are named for the point in the sky from which they appear to radiate. The radiant point for the Orionids is in the direction of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter.

As an interesting side note, you don’t need to know where the constellation is to see the meteors. The meteors often don’t become visible until they are about 30 degrees or so from their radiant point. The meteors are streaking out from the radiant in all directions. So the meteors will appear in all parts of the sky.

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An Orionid meteor captured on the north end of Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula

The Orionid meteor shower isn’t as rich a meteor shower as the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December.

The Orionid meteors are debris left behind by Halley’s Comet which is the most famous of all comets. Halley’s Comet last flew past Earth in 1986. This comet leaves debris in its wake that strikes Earth’s atmosphere most fully around October 20-22, while Earth intersects the comet’s orbit, as it does every year at this time. Particles shed by the comet slam into our upper atmosphere, where they vaporize at some 60 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The Orionids are extremely fast meteors, plummeting into the Earth’s atmosphere at about 41 miles per second.

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Orionid meteor captured just south of Flint, MI

What are meteors, anyway? Meteors are fancifully called shooting stars. Of course, they aren’t really stars. They’re space debris burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Although meteors are visible from the Earth’s surface, they’re actually only about the size of a grain of sand. The intense heat that is generated from this debris burning up in Earth’s atmosphere is what makes them visible.

For WeatherNation, Meteorologists Karissa Klos & Corey Christiansen

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