Theand a great show from serve as the opening act for the October headliner: the annual Orionid meteor shower is already visible and will reach its peak later this month.
The orionids are really just pieces of dust and debris left over from the famous comet Halley on its previous journeys through the inner solar system. As our planet is propelled by the comet detritus cloud every year around this time, all the cosmic gravel and dirt melts into our upper atmosphere and burns up in a screen that we see on the ground as “star stars”; and even a temporary fireball.
The orionids are considered to be a heavy meteor shower based on the amount of visible meteors that can be seen running towards inevitable destruction during its active period, which runs approximately from the first week of October to the first week of November.
The show is already active and the American Meteor Society predicts that a handful of meteors per hour may be visible in the next few days, leading up to the peak on October 20 and October 21, when the number could increase to 20 per hour.
Orionids can highlight the old phrase “blink and you might miss it” as they enter our atmosphere at an extremely fast speed of about 147,000 miles per hour (66 kilometers per second). That said, a lot of these meteors leave persistent tracks that last for a few seconds. Some even fragment and break up in a more spectacular way.
2020 Perseid meteor shower photos glow bright during a dark year
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To capture the show, the advice is the same as for all celestial spectators: Find a place away from light pollution with wide open views of the night sky. Bundle up if necessary, sit back, relax and let your eyes adjust. You do not have to focus on any part of the sky, but the Orionids are so named because their traces seem to come from the same general area in the sky as the constellation Orion and.
The absolute best time to look for Orionids 2020 is probably early in the morning hours before dawn on October 21, but this shower is known for an extended peak, so you should have a good chance of seeing some meteors if you get up early a few days before or after that peak date as well.
The moon will set before the highest morning hours, so it’s another advantage this year. Enjoy the show and as always, please share all the great meteor images you can capture with me on Twitter @EricCMack.