The annual Orionid meteor shower will be making a fleeting visit to the night sky this week and with some clear skies, the UK will have a front row seat to the dazzling event. As the Earth passes through debris of Halley’s Comet every October, it creates a dazzling show of bright lights shooting through the sky. These ‘shooting stars’ are what astronomy fans will be looking out for.
Halley’s Comet itself was last seen in 1986 and stargazers won’t be able to see it again until 2061. The large space object made of dust and ice has been observed from as long ago as 240 BC but it was not until 1705 when English astronomer Edmond Halley realised these sightings were in fact all the same comet. The discovery led to it being named after the scientist.
The shower produced in its wake, according to NASA Science, usually produces 20 or so meteors per hour, zipping through the sky at 41 miles per second. But when will the Orionids meteor shower peak? Here’s everything you need to know about the cosmic fireworks.
When is the Orionids Meteor Shower?
The Orionids Meteor Shower will peak between October 21 and 22 from midnight until dawn. However, the cosmic fireworks will be visible for a number of days on each side of the peak.
If you miss your chance at catching a glimpse of the shower during its peak, you need not worry, the shower will be active until November 7. However, it will be at a reduced rate so be patient when looking to the sky.
What is the Orionids Meteor Shower?
The Orionids Meteor Shower originates from Halley’s Comet. While Halley’s Comet follows its path around our Sun, a trail of cometary debris is left behind, and as the Earth passes through this debris trail, bits of comet collide with our atmosphere producing fiery streaks across the sky. The radiant of the shower lies in the constellation of Orion, hence the name.
According to The Royal Observatory, under optimal viewing conditions, observers might be able to see around 25 meteors per hour. Viewing conditions will be good this year with relatively little moonlight, so keep your fingers crossed for good weather.
Will you be able to see the Orionids Meteor Shower from the UK?
The exciting thing about this Meteor Shower is that it can be seen with the naked eye on a clear night, so you won’t need to dig out the binoculars, although they may help.
The Royal Observatory states to be in with the best chance of spotting some meteors you should: “Head to a dark sky location and aim your gaze about 45 degrees away from the constellation Orion. Remember to wrap up warm, especially if you’re going to be outside in the early hours of the morning.”
NASA says your eyes should begin to adapt to the darkness to enable you to see the meteors. AND be patient, you may have to wait a while, but following this advice will give you your best chance at catching a glimpse!