Comet Halley doesn’t visit often ( 1910, 1986, again in 2061 ). Not to be forgotten, every October delivers the Orionid meteor shower – an annual event marked by Earth intersecting the orbit of Halley’s dust trail. Dust being tiny particles of ice and debris left in the wake as Halley hurtles through space. Dubbed “Orionids” because “shooting stars” streak from constellation Orion. This year the Orionids peak on October 20-21 in the northern hemisphere.
2014 is a good year for Orionid views – a cooperative waning crescent moon will rise just before dawn. Provided skies are clear, moonlight won’t compete with falling star twinkles. Orionids reliably deliver around 25 sightings an hour. Indulge just before dawn, far away from cities and light pollution.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks tomorrow night; while not one of the most prolific displays, with an average of 20 meteors an hour, it remains one of the easiest to locate in a pre dawn sky. Almost everyone has heard of the constellation Orion; distinguished by the distinctive three star “belt”. Find Orion and you’ve found the Orionids. Debris from the tail of Halley’s Comet lights up our skies from constellation Orion shortly before sunrise being the best time to catch a “falling star”.
Image from NASA
This year Orionids are forced to compete with a Hunter’s Moon -also known as a Full Harvest Moon. Luckily they are reliable when it comes to bright fireballs. So if your weather cooperates, haul yourself out of bed and marvel at our universe. I guarantee you’ll start your day with a smile on your face.
Quadrantid is an annual meteor shower. Originating from debris left by comet 2003 EH1, Quadrantid peaks tonight with an estimated 100 meteors an hour. Finding its source in the night sky is easy; find Polaris (the north star ) and you’ve found Quadrantid.
Unfortunately we have a party crasher. Most people have heard of a “waxing moon” or “waning moon” , both of which are Gibbous moons; the no mans land between half and full. Waxing being on the way to full, waning after a full moon. Tonight’s waning gibbous moon is bright enough to block out all but the brightest meteors.
Fortunately there are plenty more meteor showers. The Lyrids in April will suffer from a pesky waning moon, the Aquarids , Delta Aquarids, Perseids, Draconids, Orionids, Taurids, and Leonids follow. Click on the link to earthsky, bookmark it and plan a magical night of star gazing. Nothing restores the soul like wishing on a falling star.