Orionid Meteor Shower, at its peak, will light up the skies this weekend

Orionid Meteor Shower, at its peak, will light up the skies this weekend

By Shirette Stockdall

The Heavens will be providing Earth with a beautiful show this weekend, the peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower. Multiple sources, including Accuweather, USA Today, and ABC 7, state that Saturday morning (just before dawn) will be the ideal time to watch the meteor shower. However, the meteor shower will still be visible Saturday and Sunday from midnight until dawn.

The eastern horizon should have the best views of meteor shower, but NASA reports that the entire Earth will be able to view the event. Bruce McClure of EarthSky told USA Today that the darkest areas should see a maximum of 10-15 meteors per hour. Also, no special equipment is needed to see the shooting stars.

The Orionid Meteor Shower happens as a result of Earth’s orbit intersecting with the path of the legendary Halley’s Comet, last seen in 1986. While Halley’s Comet is still very far away and won’t be seen again until 2061, it leaves behind debris and dust that strikes Earth’s atmosphere.

If the meteor shower originates from Halley’s Comet, why is it named the Orionid Meteor Shower? Despite its source, the meteor shower is named after the constellation, Orion, because the comets seem to radiate from Orion. Space.com suggests looking 30 degrees above Orion’s sword (or club, depending on the lore) to see the most shooting stars. Your fist at arm’s length is approximately the equivalent of 10 degrees, so measure three fist lengths above Orion.

Accuweather reports that clear skies are in the forecast for most of the Southwest, but the central and northwestern regions of the U.S. may have clouds blocking their views of the meteor shower.

If you do miss this weekend’s meteor shower, the Leonids Meteor Shower will take place in November and the Geminds Meteor Shower will light up the sky in December.

Leonid Meteor Shower At Peak Tonight

Tonight, tiny sand sized bits of debris and dust from the Temple-Tuttle comet will pass the earth, fall through it’s atmosphere and ignite. This show, called the Leonid Meteor Shower fills the sky every November and features up to a dozen meteors seen an hour.

The Leonids appear to be coming from the constellation Leo the Lion (hence their name) in the east, but they should be visible all the way across the sky. Leonids strike the Earth’s atmosphere at a zipping 158,000 mph, the fastest of any meteor shower.

Skywatching experts say that the best time to see the annual mid-November show will be between midnight and dawn.

As always, the best place to watch is said to be away from city light, preferably in a rural location with little light pollution. Since the eye can take up to 45 minutes to adapt to the dark, USA Today advises skywatchers to be patient so that the falling stars become brighter to them as the night wears on.

According to NASA, the waning crescent moon should leave skies dark enough for a decent show.

Taurid Meteor Shower Coming Wednesday

If storms don’t block your view, you may get to see a beautiful spectacle from the heavens on Wednesday night as the Taurid meteor shower lights up the sky between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. local time.

According to the International Business Times, Earth is still passing through the tail of Comet Encke, causing the meteor shower. And while Wednesday is the peak time to watch the meteor shower, NASA stated that Monday and Tuesday nights are also good for watching the shower.

The fireballs are expected to be as bright as Venus, and during the peak hours, observers will get to see approximately 7 to 10 meteors every hour, according to NASA.

Earth is currently passing through a stream of residual dust and debris in space that was left by the passing comet. Earth’s center of gravity pulls the debris in and it burns in the atmosphere, creating the falling stars.

According to the American Meteor Society, there were seven other meteor showers in 2015 in January, April, mid-April to mid-May, August, October, November, and another will take place in December.