The 2018 Orionid meteor shower will peak this weekend between Oct. 21 and 22 at an average hourly rate of 15 to 25 meteors. While the number of meteors we can see per hour is modest, it’s still a spectacular meteor shower famous for many things, especially its origin.
Caveats with the 2018 Orionid meteor shower
Since the meteor shower peaks on Sunday night, those who need to wake up early for work on Monday may miss it. Nevertheless, all astronomy enthusiasts who love watching meteor showers should be able to see a few meteors streak across the night sky on Friday and Saturday night before the shower peaks.
“Activity is expected to be a little higher this year than in years past with 20 to 25 meteors per hour, but bright moonlight will be an issue,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.
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Unfortunately, the full moon will light up the sky on Oct. 24, and it’s nearly-full state this weekend may wash out much of the 2018 Orionid meteor shower. Nonetheless, the show won’t be ruined if you find a place dark enough to enjoy the show.
The Orionid meteor shower occurs annually, and its meteors can be seen in the night sky between Oct. 2 to Nov. 7. The shower occurs when debris and dust from comets which have passed close to Earth hit its atmosphere and burn up due to their high speeds. The debris vaporizes in Earth’s atmosphere, creating beautiful white flashes that streak across the night sky.
“Debris from Haley’s Comet on the other side of the solar system causes the Eta Aquarius meteor shower in spring, but the Orionids are the more active shower,“ Samuhel said.
Origin of the Orionids
Interestingly, the Orionids come from one of the most popular comets, 1P/Halley, also known as Halley’s Comet. The comet comes to our neighborhood only once in every 76 years. The first officially-recorded flyby was in 1066, although unconfirmed glimpses of Halley’s comet were caught as far back as 467 B.C.
When Halley’s Comet was seen in England in 1066, it was thought to be a bad omen. After it was seen, King Harold II was killed during the Battle of Hastings. The last time the comet was visible to observers on Earth was in 1986, and it won’t fly past the inner parts of our solar system again until 2061.
The Orionids peak in the direction of the constellation Orion, which they are named for, so if you want to see as many as possible, you should look for the Orion constellation in the sky. Apps like Night Sky or other astronomy AR apps should help you locate the constellation easier.
Here’s what NASA said about preparing for the 2018 Orionid meteor shower:
“The Orionids are viewable in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres during the hours after midnight. Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing southeast if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or northeast if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.”