Orionids Meteor Shower Lights Up the Sky

October 21, 2009,
Composite image of the 2009 Orionids meteor shower. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

Earth is currently passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, lighting up the night sky with the "fireworks" of the annual Orionids meteor shower.

Flakes of dust hitting the are producing dozens of per hour. Normally this shower gives a modest display of 10 to 20 meteors per hour, but the past few years have been more lively than usual. The Orionids appear around this time each year as Earth orbits through an area of space littered with debris from the ancient comet.

"Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the Orionids," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Environment Office. "Flakes of hitting the atmosphere should give us dozens of meteors per hour."

The best time to look is before sunrise on Wednesday, Oct. 21st. That's when Earth encounters the densest part of Halley's debris stream. Observing is easy: Wake up a few hours before dawn, brew some hot chocolate, go outside and look up. No telescope is required to see Orionids shooting across the sky.

Orionids appear every year around this time when Earth orbits through an area of space littered with debris from the ancient comet. Normally, the shower produces 10 to 20 meteors per hour, a modest display. The past few years, however, have been much better than usual. "Since 2006, the Orionids have been one of the best showers of the year, with counts of 60 or more meteors per hour," says Cooke.

Provided by JPL/NASA (news : web)

Explore further: The 2004 Perseid Meteor Shower is Promising to Be Unusually Good

Related Stories

Return of the Leonids

November 14, 2006

On Sunday, Nov. 19th, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. The result: a shower of Leonid meteors.

Return of the Leonids

December 5, 2008

Astronomers from Caltech and NASA say a strong shower of Leonid meteors is coming in 2009. Their prediction follows an outburst on Nov. 17, 2008, that broke several years of "Leonid quiet" and heralds even more intense activity ...

Perseid Meteor Shower To Peak Aug. 12

August 7, 2008

The annual Perseid meteor shower will be visible in the night sky throughout Colorado and will peak during the early morning hours of Aug. 12, according to an astronomy expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Recommended for you

See a passing comet this Sunday

December 14, 2018

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope.

Mars InSight lander seen in first images from space

December 14, 2018

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight's exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful ...

Video: Enjoying the Geminids from above and below

December 14, 2018

On the night of December 13, into the morning of December 14, 2018, tune into the night sky for a dazzling display of fireballs. Thanks to the International Space Station, this sky show – the Geminids meteor shower—will ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.