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Orionid Meteor Shower Expected to Wow Early Tuesday Morning

20 Oct 2014, 1:04 pm

Orionids, Mike Lewinski

Photo credit: Mike Lewinski/Flickr

The Orionid Meteor Shower is expected to pepper the Earth’s atmosphere with meteoroids early Tuesday morning, before sunrise.

The Orionids are a product of the Earth passing through the debris cloud that was left by Halley’s Comet as it zipped through our solar system in 1986.  The comet, on average, passes the Earth every 75 years.

Every year, the Orionid Meteor Shower occurs in mid-to-late October.  And at its peak, you should be able to see a couple dozen shooting stars every hour.

“We expect to see about 20 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Tuesday morning, Oct 21st,” says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

Orionids Meteor Shower Viewing

Luckily, the sky will be quite dark as the moon begins to enter a “new moon” phase.  But, cloud cover in certain parts of the country could ruin you chance at seeing this spectacular celestial event.  The above graphic shows areas that are favorable for star-gazing(green areas) and other locations that are less likely to see shooting stars (red areas).

According to NASA, the best chance of seeing the Orionids will be before sunrise. The origin of the Orionids will be from above the left shoulder of the Orion constellation and just to the right of the Gemini constellation.

orionids_nasa

The meteors will be moving at a pretty fast clip as well.   “Meteoroids from Halley’s Comet strike Earth’s atmosphere traveling 148,000-mph.  Only the November Leonids are faster,” said Cooke.

Meteors that travel at that speed, have a proclivity for exploding as they encounter huge amounts of friction from the Earth’s atmosphere.  NASA also says the explosion-induced fireballs can also leave smoke trails that linger for minutes after the meteor burns out. The smoke trails can be contorted and twisted by upper-level winds, leaving a scene that can rival the meteor shower itself.

Meteorologist Alan Raymond

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