Popular Orionid meteor shower to peak in the night sky this week
By Heather Janssen, AccuWeather.com
The peak of the Orionid meteor shower is set for the night of Oct. 21 into the early morning hours of Oct. 22.
"The Orionids are popular among stargazers because of all its individual shooting stars are fragments of the most famous comet of all time, Halley's Comet, which has the scientific designation of P1, meaning the first periodic (returning again and again) comet ever known," Slooh Astronomer Bob Berman said.
The Orionid meteors are simply tiny bits of ice and dust that fell away from the comet and plowed into our atmosphere, according to Slooh, a community observatory that has connected telescopes to the Internet for public use.
Slooh added that at the shower's peak, the Orionids can display as many as 30 meteors per hour. They will be visible in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere.
"These are such fast-shooting stars, they only last for a second or so, so observers should keep their eyes glued to the sky or you'll miss them," Berman said. "Expect to see the greatest number between midnight and dawn, at which time an observer away from light pollution can expect to see one every two to three minutes."
The first-quarter moon will also be setting after midnight at the peak of the shower this year, providing excellent viewing conditions.
Stargazers who will encounter inclement weather or cloudy skies can view Slooh's live broadcast of the meteor shower starting at 8 p.m. EDT on Oct. 21.
Observers across the Southeast will see favorable conditions for viewing the Orionids as high pressure sits overhead, AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis said.
"Anywhere from the Carolinas to Arkansas will have mainly clear skies. There may be a few more clouds around along the east coast of Florida, but overall there will still be clear areas to spot meteors," Travis stated.
A storm system moving across the Great Lakes will spread clouds from Michigan and eastern Wisconsin eastward to Pennsylvania and Ohio. Clouds will also blanket New England, making for poor viewing conditions.
AccuWeather Astronomy Facebook Page
AccuWeather Astronomy Blog
PHOTOS: Supermoon Lunar Eclipse Lights Up Night Sky
"Cloudy skies will be found across much of southern and central Texas into the Four Corners region, western Oklahoma and western Kansas, so conditions will be unfavorable in these areas," Travis said.
Mainly clear skies across the Southwest and northern Plainsin, including much of California, Nevada, Montana and the Dakotas, will make for excellent viewing conditions.
According to Travis, the Pacific Northwest will have some clouds overhead; however, there may be enough breaks to spot meteors.
The Orionids, like all meteor showers, get their name from the place in the sky where all meteors seem to radiate, Berman said. "In this case, they all zoom, at 40 miles per second, from just above the famous supergiant star Betelgeuse in Orion. Hence the Orionids."
Check out photos of the Perseid meteor shower earlier this year: