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Eyes on the Skies: Orionid Meteor Shower

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Lisa Winter

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59 Eyes on the Skies: Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid meteor shower is an annual occurrence in mid autumn. The Orionids were named after the constellation Orion, from which the shower appears to originate, just over Betelgeuse. The meteors don’t really originate from there, but naming it after the constellation helps skywatchers remember where to look. 



The Orionid meteors are fragments of Halley’s Comet and can put on quite a show, with as many as 50-70 sightings per hour on certain years. The meteors can travel 148,000 mph (66 km/s) into our atmosphere. These speeds are enough to give the meteors a glowing train as they burn up, creating the "shooting star" effect that we see.


Spotting the meteors takes a bit of work. It is important to go to a rural area that is not affected by city lights and give your eyes adequate time to adjust to the dark. The meteors are not particularly bright and can get washed out by competing lights very easily. This meteor shower can be seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and is most visible in the predawn hours.



Unfortunately, 2013 was not a good year for viewing the Orionids. The peak of this year's shower happened to coincide with a bright, waning gibbous moon, which washed them out almost entirely. City lights compounded the problem, leaving very few places that could get a good luck at the meteors. Fortunately there was a live webcast on the 20th at the peak of the shower, courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera. If you missed out on seeing the event live, Slooh has posted the video online, so you won’t miss a minute. There’s over 8 hours of footage each from the two nights when the Orionids were at the peak. Some commentary is provided on the videos.


spaceSpace and Physics
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  • orionids,

  • meteors,

  • halleys comet