The Sky Tonight Update: Orionids Meteor Shower

The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times.  This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and as the icy comet makes its way around the sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet crumbs. At certain times of the year, Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the debris.  The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22.  The meteors that streak across the sky are some of the fastest among meteor showers because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head-on.

Reports of the Orionids did not first appear until 1839 when an American in Connecticut spotted the shower.  More observations of the shower were recorded during the Civil War between 1861 and 1865.

The thin, crescent moon will leave mostly dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

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