Oct. 20-24: Orionids
#1
Sorry for posting this a bit late; tonight is the last night to see these meteors...
 

 
Dark Nights for the Orionid Meteors
Halley’s Comet adds a trace to Earth’s mass every October. The meteor shower peaks Oct. 20-24.
By ALAN MACROBERT

 
 
The Orionid meteor shower isn’t one of the year’s richest, but it’s pretty. Every year it produces up to 20 meteors visible per hour before dawn from about Oct. 20-24, given good sky conditions. This year the moon is new and therefore absent from the early-morning sky.
 
The Orionids have an illustrious parentage. Like the Eta Aquarids of May, they are bits of debris shed long ago by Halley’s Comet. The two showers are essentially one and the same; Earth intersects a single, broad stream of meteoroids at two places in its orbit on opposite sides of the Sun.
 
Like the Eta Aquarids, the Orionids tend to be faint and swift -- only the Leonids hit Earth’s atmosphere faster -- and they often leave briefly glowing trains. The shower is actually a complex of several subshowers with different maxima spread over several days. The subshowers’ radiants (perspective points of origin) are grouped near Orion’s Club.
 
For observers around 40 degrees north latitude, the radiants rise high in the eastern sky (at least 45 degrees up) by about 2AM local daylight-saving time. So that’s when the meteor activity gets good. The first light of dawn begins stealing into the east about four hours later.
 
Halley’s Comet last came through the inner solar system in 1985–86, and its 15-by-8-kilometer (9-by-5-mile) nucleus shed a layer of dirty ice about 6 meters (20 feet) thick on average. This has been happening every 76 years for many millennia. During that time the dirt bits have spread all around Halley’s elongated orbit and a fair distance from it sideways, which is why some of the particles now intersect Earth even though the comet’s orbit does not. (The orbits of Halley and Earth are separated by 22 million km, or 0.15 astronomical unit, at their closest point.) No one knows how long it took the Orionid meteoroids to drift so far off track — one estimate is 4,000 to 10,000 years — but it’s clear that as shower meteoroids go, the Orionids are old.
 
They’ve been seen for a long time too. The first known Orionid shower was recorded by the Chinese in AD 288, when “stars fell like rain.” The shower has been well observed ever since astronomers first recognized its radiant in 1864.
 
To watch the Orionids, bundle up very warmly and bring a sleeping bag; meteor observing is the coldest activity you can do close to home. Find a dark spot with an open view of the sky. The less light pollution the better; a shower like this one that’s rich in faint meteors is especially hard hit by artificial skyglow. The direction to watch is wherever your sky is darkest. Lie back, let your eyes adapt to the night, and be patient.
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#2
Quote:For observers around 40 degrees north latitude, the radiants rise high in the eastern sky (at least 45 degrees up) by about 2AM local daylight-saving time. So that’s when the meteor activity gets good. The first light of dawn begins stealing into the east about four hours later.

Lansing's latitude is 42.7N.... Now if only I can stay awake until 2am...now that I want to stay up, I'll fall asleep!

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#3
Coolio, Spooks! Hope you see something good! I've never seen the Orionids, only the Leonids -- but the Perseids in August is the REALLY big show. If you haven't been blessed to see them, go for it next year (around the Feast of St. Lawrence)! Since they are said to outshine the Leonids, and since the Leonids I saw were SPECTACULAR, a good Perseid show has to be awesome...
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