ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Stargazers in the Big Country can catch a glimpse of the Orionid meteor shower as it hits its peak early on Thursday morning. For those who are not true and dedicated night owls don’t worry, you should be able to see some meteors Wednesday night as well. But, the annual meteor shower could have some competition with another celestial body in the sky.
The Orionid meteor shower is the second meteor shower of October, following the Draconid meteor shower on October 8th. The Orionids are active from September 26 through November 22, but is predicted to peak in the early hours of Thursday morning. The current rate is expected to be near 5 to 10 meteors per hour, but could peak as high as 10 to 20 meteors per hour.
What are the Orionids
Ask anyone to name a comet and there is a pretty high chance that the comet they say will be Halley’s. While we won’t be seeing Halley’s Comet grace the Big Country sky, we will be seeing a few pieces of Halley “comet litter” zipping through our atmosphere in the form of meteors. The Orionid meteor shower peaks when the Earth passes through a stream of dust from Comet 1P/Halley, or better known as Halley’s Comet.
So if these meteors are just the dust from Halley’s Comet, why are they called the Orionids? They get their name from the constellation in which they appear to come from, which in this case is Orion the Hunter.
A handicap for viewing this year
There is a pretty big drawback if you are planning to watch the meteors this year in the form of a full moon. The full moon of October will occur tonight, October 20th. This moon is traditionally known as the “Hunter’s Moon”, because at this time of the year it signified it was time to go hunting to prepare for the upcoming cold months.
But why is the full moon a handicap for seeing the peak meteor shower? When the moon is full it provides an abundance of bright moonlight. Light is the killer of good meteor shower viewing. So, a good amount of the streaks of light from the meteors will likely be obliterated by the light from the Hunter’s Moon. Still, the more exceptionally bright meteors in the shower should still be visible.
When and where to watch the Orionids
According to the American Meteor Society (AMS), the shower will be best seen after midnight tonight. As for where to look they say that the radiant of the Orionids, which is the area of the sky where the meteors appear to shoot from, will be located between the constellations Orion and Gemini. These two clusters of stars are in the southeastern sky before dawn.
However while the radiant is located there, the AMS recommends to look north of the constellation near Orion’s sword. Meteors are rarely seen at the radiant, rather they shoot outwards from that spot. It is best to center your field of view with the radiant at the edge than in the center to see the streaks of light left behind from the meteors.
Viewing tips and conditions
Conditions for the Big Country tonight and tomorrow morning are looking to be quite good for viewing the Orionids! We could see some higher clouds increase through the night, but overall the sky should be decent for viewing.
A big tip if you want to watch the Orionids is to get away from city lights. Much like how the moonlight from the Hunter’s Moon could wipe out some meteors from view, city lights will do the same thing. Other than that, grab a blanket and a comfy chair and enjoy the show!