Annual Orionid Meteor Shower

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/orionids2012.html

Source: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/orionids2012.html

The annual Orionid Meteor Shower has been ongoing over the past couple of days and peaks late tonight, during the predawn hours of Sunday morning.  The Orionid Meteor Shower occurs every year during mid to late October as Earth moves through a stream of debris from Halley’s comet. Why it’s called the “Orionid” meteor shower is because the meteors streak out of the constellation Orion and astronomers therefore call them “Orionids.”  Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office states, “Since 2006, the Orionids have been one of the best showers of the year, with counts in some years up to 60 or more meteors per hour.”  Below is a sky chart diagram for viewing the Orionids Meteor Shower tonight.

Thanks to a mostly clear sky & crescent moon, there will be optimal viewing of the meteors. Due to the fact that the moon will be just shy of the First Quarter Moon, which is Sunday night, it will help with the glow of the moon not making it difficult to see meteors.  For the best viewing of meteor shower, look towards the southern sky.  Also make sure that you are away from city or street lights that may make it harder to see the meteors. Astronomers are predicting anywhere between 20-25 meteors per hour possible. Below is a false-color image of an Orionid Meteor captured in the Tennessee Valley, specifically Tullahoma, TN!

The peak of meteor showers can be very short, so if you are up late, or early and you don’t see any meteors, there are many more astronomical delights to gaze at in the night sky. NASA listed a few on their website which include, “brilliant Venus, red Mars, the dog star Sirius and bright winter constellations such as Orion, Gemini and Taurus.” If you wake up early to try and view some meteors, keep in mind it will be chilly, with temperatures cooing into the mid to upper 30s and low 40s overnight, so bundle up!

Happy Sky Watching!

- Jennifer Watson

Twitter: @JWatson_Wx

Facebook: Jennifer Watson WHNT