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.

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The Sky Tonight Update: Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower

The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times.

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Antique Jewelry Inspired by Comet Halley

As part of our upcoming comet exhibition at LASM, the museum acquired a collection of very interesting pieces of jewelry. ┬áThe staff and I are quite fascinated by them. Their simple design is easily overlooked at an antique store if one isn’t familiar with the style. I will definitely be on the look out next time I’m at an antique store!!

halleys-comet-1986In the late 1700s and early 1800s one might say that the astronomical community was gripped by “comet fever”. Many astronomers, including Charles Messier spent many nights at their telescopes hunting for comets. Messier himself discovered over ten comets, as well as many star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies (Later known as the Messier Objects) that he cataloged as “non comets.” “Comet Fever” also took the public by storm, leading to many interesting pieces of artwork.

My particular favorite are the Halley’s Comet pins. Inspired by the unique shape of a comet in the sky, these pins are often simple in design. They are often a horizontal brooch style pin usually about an inch and a half long, with a gem placed at one end to represent the comet itself, and a thin bar to represent the tail. To the untrained eye, the pins appear asymmetrical and somewhat strange.┬áThese pins were quite the trend in the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. They range in intricacy, type of metal, as well as type of gemstone.

Earlier pins tended to have highly ornate metal working in the “tail segment”.


The style evolved into a more streamlined, modern look in the early 1900s.

The comet pin underwent a radical change in the mid to late 1900s, pins became large and more compex.

Below is one of the pins from the LASM collection.


The pins in our collection all date back to around 1835. Note the detail in the metal tail.

The exhibition “Vagabonds of the Solar System: Comets Past and Present” opens at LASM on November 19th! Visit the museum to view our collection of comet pins and vintage comet memorabilia, and to learn the historical and scientific significance of comets.