DETROIT – Tonight is one of our lesser known annual meteor showers, the Orionid Meteor Shower.
Meteor showers are named for the constellation that they appear to originate from (that point in the sky is called the radiant) and, since tonight’s meteors originate from near the constellation Orion, they’re called Orionids. And you thought astronomy was complicated.
You probably know what Orion looks like but, in case you don’t, I’ve made a rough outline in the graphic here in this article (remember “Orion’s belt”…the three diagonal stars close together). The Orionids generally come from the area of the sky to the left of Orion, which will generally be in the southern sky. The bad news about Orionids is that they tend to be fainter than some of our other meteor showers. The good news is that they are moving faster than average, and stretch farther across the sky. So if you see one, it’ll be pretty cool.
When to look? That’s another piece of bad news. In contrast to our recent Draconid Meteor Shower, when evening was the best time to look, the Orionids are best viewed in the hour or two before dawn Sunday morning. And that’s particularly important this year because there will be a bright moon in the sky most of the night. Moonlight means that we can’t see the fainter ones. Yes, you can go out and look earlier in the night and perhaps see a few, but you’ll have a much better chance after that moon sets and the sky is darker late at night.