The Orionid meteor shower is expected to reach peak activity this year on October 21st, 2009. This meteor shower comes from Halley's Comet, since like most comets, it leaves a dusty trail as it orbits the sun. The particles in this trail eventually become meteors as they burn up in our atmosphere.
The Orionids have been producing rather bright meteors in the recent past, so it should be a good show. The shower reached a maximum of only 20-30 meteors per hour last year, but is still a worthwhile observing event! This is because the Orionids typically are very colorful meteors, sometimes being yellow or green, and sometimes even producing fireballs called bolides. Also, this year's shower will be perfectly timed with a very thin crescent Moon, so the views of the meteors won't be impeded by moonlight!
When and Where Should I Look?
As usual, the best time to observe a meteor shower is during the early morning hours, around 2-5 AM. This is because as the Earth rotates into the sunlight, we are moving into the meteor field. This increases the number of meteors entering our atmosphere over any given location. Of course, not everone wants to stay up that late, so if you don't plan on doing so, start watching for the meteors at local dusk, and they'll really start to pick up towards 11 PM or midnight. The Orionids have a very broad peak, so any night during the week of October 18th to October 24th will work for obesrving.
To find the direction you should look, simply find the constellation Orion. It is one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky, mostly due to the 3 bright stars that make up his belt. Look for three stars in a straight line somewhere between SW and SE depending on the time. There will also be an hourglass shape along with this "belt". This will be the direction that the meteors will appear to come from. Click for information on finding Orion and objects in it.
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