The Orionid meteor shower is expected to peak in the next few days and you don’t want to miss out.
The annual shower has been called “one of the most beautiful showers of the year” by Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, and is a popular celestial event for stargazers everywhere.
Here are 11 things you need to know about the 2017 Orionid meteor shower:
Why are these meteor showers called Orionids?
The meteors radiate (or originate) from a region close to the constellation Orion the Hunter.
What causes the meteor shower?
According to Space.com, the meteor’s particles come from Comet 1P (or Halley’s Comet), which zips by the planet every 75 to 76 years.
As the comet passes Earth, it leaves behind “a trail of comet crumbs” and every now and then, the Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths with the comet’s debris.
What’s the difference between a meteoroid, meteor and, meteorite anyway?
Cooke told Space.com that a meteoroid is essentially space debris. For example, the crumbs from Halley’s Comet are meteoroids.
Once the meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors (or shooting stars).
Though most meteors disintegrate before hitting the ground, meteors that do strike the surface of the planet are called meteorites, Cooke said.
How fast will the Orionids be?
According to Cooke, some will zoom at speeds up to 148,000 miles per hour in relative speed — less than four miles per hour slower than the speediest sky show of the year, the Leonids.
When will it peak?
The Orionid shower will peak between Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21 this year, but you may be able to catch a meteor or two before then.
Peak visibility is around 2 a.m.
Orionid meteors usually fly between Oct. 2 to Nov. 7 each year.
How many meteors will I see?
According to EarthSky.org, you can expect to see up to 10-20 meteors per hour during peak time.
Where do I have to go to watch the meteor showers?
The meteor shower will be visible from anywhere on the planet, but be sure to go somewhere far from city lights.
How to find the shape of Orion the Hunter
The meteor shower will radiate from Orion’s sword, which is slightly north of the star Betelgeuse.
According to Space.com, it could be helpful or just educational to find the shape of Orion the Hunter as you get settled for the show.
But staring straight at the point of origin won’t do much for you, Cooke said. That’s because “meteors close to the radiant have short trails and are harder to see — so you want to look away from Orion.”
Your best bet is to simply look up at the vast, dark sky.
GLOBE at Night has a nifty Orion Finder Chart that will show you Orion based on your location, for anyone interested.
The easiest way to find Orion is to go outside in the evening and look in the southwest sky if you are in the northern hemisphere or the northwestern sky if you are in the southern hemisphere. If you live on or near the equator, he will be visible in the western sky. You are looking for three bright stars close together in an almost-straight line. These three stars represent Orion's belt. The two bright stars to the north are his shoulders and the two to the south are his feet.
Do I need binoculars?
According to Space.com, binoculars and telescopes won’t actually help. That’s because those tools are designed to magnify and focus on stationary objects in the sky.
The naked eye will do just fine.
How to safely watch the shower
Space.com recommends heading outdoors around 1:30 a.m. and letting your eyes adjust to the darkness for about 20 minutes.
How to watch the Orionid meteor shower livestream
Catch a live stream event at Slooh.com on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22. Slooh will be pulling images from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands in Tenerife's Teide National Park, one of the world's darkest places, according to Travel and Leisure.
- Mark your calendar for these 2017 meteor showers
- Perseids light up the night sky in annual celestial show for stargazers
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- Photos: Perseid meteor shower brightens the night sky
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