It’s that time of year again! Our favourite meteor shower, the Orionids will be putting on a show in our night sky. Not only is it our favourite because the skies are darker but it’s also one of the most reliable meteor showers of the astronomical calendar.
As the name suggests, the meteors will originate from the constellation Orion. It will of course best be seen away from any sources of light pollution so this is a great excuse to drive to a dark location with a flask of hot chocolate, a blanket and nice comfortable camping chair! Trust me, it will be worth it. As with any astronomical event, patience is key but if the night is clear, there will be plenty of other objects visible to keep you entertained. Constellation spotting is always a great past time.
So what are these meteors? Well, they are actually small pieces of the famous comet, Halley ’s Comet, which unfortunately we will not see again until 2061. Some of us more mature readers will remember seeing it in 1986. The meteors we see whizzing down in the night sky is an exciting reminder that Halley is still up there, following its path around the sun. As the comet is travelling on its course, it leaves a path of debris which enters our atmosphere. Aerodynamic heating caused by its intense speed through the atmosphere causes the debris to glow extremely bright. We see this superheated, bright debris as meteors.
The meteor shower is visible now but will peak from October 21st to the 22nd after midnight. With a bit of luck, 25 meteors per hour should be visible so be prepared to be wowed! Unfortunately the moon will be over 60% illuminated this weekend, which could drown out the smaller dimmer meteorites.
Meteor showers are a great opportunity for budding photographers to get out and take photos of the spectacular show. The images will be stunning and composites could be produced to show a number of meteors within one image. If the moon is too bright, then this could be a great chance for some lunar photography.
If clouds spoil the view (or the moon!) then don’t worry, there are a few more meteor showers waiting in the wings before 2018 bows out. In November we have the Southern Taurids and the Leonids followed by the Geminid’s and Ursid meteor showers in December.
So get outside this weekend and enjoy the show! I wish you clear skies and a great time observing.
Written by Guest Blogger Katrin Raynor-Evans