The annual Orionid meteor shower is well under way and will be visible through November 22, 2021.
The meteor shower will be at its peak Wednesday, October 20 through the morning of Thursday, October 21.
Up to 20 meteors will be visible per hour during the shower, but the full Hunter’s Moon could interfere with your viewing plans.
After the heat of summer has faded there’s no better time to stay up late and soak up the majesty of the night sky—and October’s Orionid meteor shower is the perfect time to do just that. You won't want to miss the opportunity to ring in the much-anticipated arrival of sweater weather (plus catch a fitting show in time for spooky season—though extraterrestrials likely won't make an appearance).
The annual Orionid meteor shower began on September 26 and will continue through November 22, 2021, per the American Meteor Society (AMS). Although the Orionids will stretch from the beginning of fall to just a few days before Thanksgiving, they will peak on the night of Wednesday, October 20 through the morning of Thursday, October 21, the AMS notes.
While the Orionid meteor shower isn’t the most spectacular show of the year—that title is most often given to the Geminids, which are coming up this December—they’re still very much worth the effort to watch, according to NASA, which says they’re “known for their brightness and for their speed.” The shower usually produces 10 to 20 meteors per hour, according to the Griffith Observatory.
But before you head outside, October’s Hunter’s Moon might interfere with the shower's peak viewing hours. Both the full moon and the Orionids will peak overnight, meaning that there will be a ton of extra light in the sky, which could impact your ability to spot shooting stars as they sail by.
To give yourself the best viewing conditions possible, be prepared to stay up late; the meteors are most visible in the hours after midnight, NASA explains. Next, find an area with as little artificial light as possible, lay down with your feet facing southeast, and look straight up, taking in as much of the night sky as possible. In less than 30 minutes your eyes will be fully adjusted. Then, it’s a waiting game until you see your first Orionid.
The particular meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Orion, the Griffith Observatory explains, which is visible around the world and is one of the easiest to identify. The meteors appear to originate from this constellation—and since its stars are so bright, NASA notes, it makes a wonderful sight.
This meteor shower is made up of remnants of Halley’s Comet, which takes about 76 years to orbit the sun. Each year, when Earth passes through the comet’s trail, pieces of space debris enter our atmosphere and burn up, creating streaks of light in the sky.
The next meteor showers to peak will be the Southern Taurids on the night of November 4 and the Northern Taurids on the night of November 11, both of which are currently active, per the AMS. But for now, we’ve got plenty of Orionids to brighten our evenings and keep us entertained.
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