October is a special month for astronomy lovers because around this time every year Earth passes through the tail of debris left behind by three different comets.
Right now, we’re cruising through the tail of Halley’s Comet, and the result is one of the best sky-watching events of the year – the Orionid meteor shower. This shower lasts until October 27, but don’t wait, because it’s about to hit its peak.
The shower will hit its peak from October 21 to October 22.
These meteors are known as Orionids because they appear to emanate from a region to the north of the second-brightest star in the Orion constellation – Betelgeuse.
They were originally meteoroids, formed from the remnants of the nucleus – or rocky core – of Halley’s Comet. Since breaking apart from the comet, they’ve remained as a swirling cloud of rubble, shadowing it as it orbits the Sun every 76 years.
As Earth passes through this dirt cloud twice a year, these meteoroids burn up in our atmosphere to become meteors – otherwise known as shooting stars.
The Orionids meteor shower can also produce fireballs, which are meteors that shine extremely bright for a few seconds before fading.
For the best chance of spotting the meteors, you’ve got to think strategically – meaning don’t just step onto your balcony and wonder where all the shooting stars are, find somewhere with low light pollution, lie back on a deck chair, and wait.
You’ll also need to find the Orion constellation in the sky, so you know where the meteors are going to appear (called the radiant), and the easiest way to do that is to look for Orion’s belt – three stars that are pretty much evenly spaced in a straight line.
Once you find the radiant, don’t look directly at it, but find a dark patch of sky around 30 to 40° away from it to focus on.
“The Orionid meteor shower is one of the best known and most reliable meteor showers in the annual calendar, visible from across the globe,” said the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
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Via Conscious Reminder, and it is re-posted here with kind permission.