October's third meteor shower will yield 10 to 20 visible meteors per hour.
Fresh off the peaks of the Draconids and Taurids, the Orionids are now lighting up the sky and set to peak October 21-23.
Every fall, the Orionids puts on a show in October or early November. The shower looks like it comes from the constellation of Orion, giving the shower its name, which also makes them fairly easy to locate in the night sky. The meteors are actually space debris burning up as it enters Earth's atmosphere. The debris is from the famous Halley's Comet, which last passed by our planet in 1986!
The meteor shower is actually happening right now.
Peak viewing time should be a few hours before dawn during October 21-23. The peak morning should be October 22. In perfect viewing conditions (very dark with little moonlight), you can see up to 40 meteors per hour. However, the Orionids are the speed demons of the skies and tend to streak into the Earth's atmosphere at an impressive 41 miles per second, making them a little tough to catch. In addition, the waxing gibbous moon won't be helping us out, as it will be fairly bright in the sky.
"The meteors in this shower are on the faint side. But they make up for that; maybe half of the Orionid meteors leave persistent trains, or ionized gas trails that last for a few seconds after the meteor itself has gone," says Earthsky.org.
If you hope to catch the Orionids, here are a few tips:
- Find a spot that is as far as possible away from city lights and other artificial light
- Arrive AT LEAST 20 minutes prior to the before peak so your eyes can adjust
- Lay flat on the ground and face the constellation. In this case, you'll look for Orion the Hunter—just look for the three stars in the sky that make up his belt. The constellation will be ascending from the east after midnight. Note: even if you can't find the constellation, the meteors will still be streaking across most of the sky.
And, if you miss this meteor shower, don't worry. You can the Leonids in November and the Geminds in December!