20 October 2011

Orionid Meteor Shower 2011

The Orionid Meteor Shower peaks for the next two mornings, October 21 and 22, as the Earth passes through a debris stream left by Halley's Comet. Like all annual meteor showers, the Orionids occur at the same time each year because the Earth, in its 365-day trip around the Sun, passes through areas of increased debris, leading to a much more focused period of time with meteors flying into Earth's atmosphere and creating those beautiful streaks of light that magically light the sky for a moment and then vanish without a trace.

The name Orionids tells us that the meteors in this shower appear to emanate from the constellation Orion, the beautiful winter sky constellation. But like the best meteors in any shower, you won't see Orion until after midnight as it rises out of the east. Meteor showers are best observed between midnight and sunrise, when you are viewing meteors entering our atmosphere on the 'front face' of the Earth. Given that sunrise is quite late this time of year, take advantage of that and get up just ahead of dawn's light, around 6:15 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Image courtesy of Earth Sky.


Sidewalk Universe said...

It was a nice showing of long streaks across our southern sky. They seemed to move "slower" than most other meteors?! I averaged out about 8-12 per hour from my suburban location.

The sky was busy with this, Jupiter, Mars, waning Luna, double stars in Orion. My goodness it was a busy morning!

Hope you had a good look my fellow urban observer!

The Urban Astronomer said...

You got a much better showing than I did, Richard. I saw a few brief streaks across the sky, but I only had a short viewing session Friday morning, competing with some moonlight and some coastal fog.

The Leonids are my "birthday" meteor shower, as they peak each year on my birthday. There will again be some moonlight, but weather permitting I'll be happy to try.

-- Paul