DETROIT - This weekend is the annual Orionid Meteor Shower, which occurs as the earth passes through the trail of debris left behind by Halley’s Comet during its many travels into the inner Solar System.
Those bits of dirt, most no bigger than the size of a “Grape Nut cereal nugget”, burn up from friction as they hit our atmosphere. Every year, somebody asks me why this meteor shower is called the Orionids, when the meteors are from Halley’s Comet. That’s because when you watch the meteor shower, the “shooting stars” seem to come from the constellation Orion (“The Hunter”).
That’s how most meteor showers are named. For example, next month’s Leonids originate from the constellation Leo (“The Lion”).
The best time to look (as with most of our annual meteor showers) is in the early morning darkness just before dawn. And helping us out this year is that there will be no moon in the sky, which makes the sky darker and gives us a better chance to see the meteors. Just look for Orion in the sky (most easily found by finding the three stars that make up the hunter’s belt), as I’ve drawn on the graphic above.
The easiest thing to do is grab a blanket and lay on a lounge chair facing in Orion’s general direction, and just gaze at that general part of the sky…don’t focus on a single point.
Although early Saturday morning is the projected peak of the Orionids, some scientists say that we may also have a chance to see them early Sunday morning before dawn. And right now, it appears that Mother Nature is going to cooperate!
Even if you aren’t an early riser and don’t want to get up early to see the meteors, step outside around midnight or after for 10-15 minutes and give it a try…sometimes you can see a few then.
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