A meteor shower described as “one of the most beautiful showers” of the year is set to illuminate the night sky in the coming days. The Orionid meteor shower, known for its brightness and incredible speed, is eagerly awaited by skywatchers and stargazers worldwide.
When and Where to Watch:
- Start Date: The Orionid meteor shower began on September 26, according to NASA, and will continue through November 22. This celestial spectacle has been gracing our skies for a few weeks already.
- Peak Date: This year, the Orionid meteor shower is expected to reach its peak on October 21. During this time, in moonless skies, spectators can anticipate seeing around 23 meteors per hour, as stated by NASA.
- Visibility: The Orionid meteor shower can be witnessed in both the northern and southern hemispheres. To make the most of this celestial event, it’s recommended to observe the night skies “during the hours after midnight,” as advised by NASA. For the best viewing experience, try to distance yourself from sources of artificial light. It takes approximately 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust so that you can begin spotting meteors.
- Northern Hemisphere Viewing: If you are in the northern hemisphere, NASA recommends lying flat on your back with your feet facing southeast for the optimal view.
- Southern Hemisphere Viewing: If you are in the southern hemisphere, point your feet northeast for the best vantage point.
- Constellation Orion: To enhance your viewing experience, locate the constellation Orion, which lends its name to the meteor shower. Find the star Betelgeuse within Orion. To spot the meteor shower, look just north of Betelgeuse, where the radiant point in the sky seems to originate. NASA suggests not fixing your gaze on Orion itself but rather looking about 45 to 90 degrees away. This will give the meteors a longer and more spectacular appearance. Gazing directly at Orion may cause the meteors to appear shorter.
- Duration: NASA mentions that the meteor shower “will last until dawn,” so early risers are in for a celestial treat.
Next Meteor Shower in 2023:
The meteor shower calendar for 2023 includes the Leonids, which will begin on November 3, overlapping briefly with the Orionids, before concluding on December 2. The Leonid meteor shower is set to peak on November 18.
What Causes Meteor Showers:
Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris trails left by comets. The meteors are composed of leftover comet particles and fragments of broken asteroids. As these celestial remnants enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they disintegrate, creating the recognizable streaks of light across the night sky. The Orionid meteor shower, in particular, is formed from dust originating from Halley’s Comet, which orbits the sun every 76 years and was last seen by casual observers in 1986.
So, mark your calendars for the Orionid meteor shower’s peak on October 21 and get ready for a mesmerizing celestial display. Whether you’re in the northern or southern hemisphere, the night sky promises to put on a dazzling show that you won’t want to miss.