Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid Meteor Shower will peak the evening of October 20, 2017.

Because meteor showers occur when the leading night side of the earth passes through a field of dust, the best time to view meteors is after midnight in a viewing location with a dark sky, but you may still see some bright meteors from your own backyard.

The term “meteor shower” is a great exaggeration! The Orionid meteor shower typically results in about 10 to 15 meteors per hour. Still, this is a higher rate of meteors that an average night. Still, meteor showers have occurred in the past that had hundreds of meteors per hour, so we can all hope!

Meteors (aka “falling stars”) are caused by dust and small particles (meteoroids) that hit the atmosphere and burn up. As they burn, then leave a trail of hot gas. If the meteor is large enough, it may land on the ground, becoming a meteorite.

A meteor shower is the result of a trail of dust that has been left behind by a comet. These trails of dust have a higher concentration of particles than normal space, and the result is that more particles hit the atmosphere. As the Earth to passes through this lane of dust, the middle of the lane will have a higher concentration of dust, and this is known as the peak. If you happen to miss the peak of a meteor shower, you may still catch a glimpse of it the night before and after.

Since the Earth is rushing into a lane of meteoroids, all of the meteors appear to be coming from the same central location in the sky (much like the headlights approaching you on a long highway appear to recede to a point in the distance). The Orionids are so named because they all appear to be coming from the constellation of Orion.

About Robert Madsen

I am an amateur astronomer and have been interested in astronomy since I was four years old. By eight had read Fred Hoyle's Astronomy textbook. By 6th grade I had read every astronomy book in my school's library. You get the picture! I love astronomy and space exploration. I am a member of the Planetary Society, Mars Society, and of course, Western Colorado Astronomy Club.

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