The Orionid meteor shower, which is usually shortened to just the Orionids, is the most prolific meteor shower associated with Halley’s Comet. The Orionids are named such because the point in the sky from which they appear to come from. This is called the radiant and lies in the constellation Orion, but they can be seen over a large area of the sky. Down under we know Orion as the Saucepan.
The shower starts on the 16th and will be visible through to the 30th with the peak expected on the early morning of the 21st.
The Moon will be at last quarter and will rise about 1:13am AEDT. So it will interfere only a Little but you should still get good viewing in dark skies. Best time is from 3 am onwards.
The Orionid meteors are some of the fastest among meteor showers, because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head on.
Meteor showers occur when the Earth moves through the debris left by comets or in some cases asteroids. Most meteors are only the size of a grain of sand or smaller but they produce a lot of light as they burn up due to friction– hitting the atmosphere anywhere from around 40,000 kph to 260,000 kph.
The particles come from Comet 1P/Halley, better known as Halley’s Comet. This famous comet swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years, and it makes its way around the Sun, it leaves behind a trail of comet litter. At certain times of the year, Earth’s orbit around the Sun crosses paths with the debris resulting in a meteor shower.
There are 112 identified meteor showers and some routinely produce tens or hundreds of meteors per hour. Occasionally rare meteor storms can produce thousands of meteors per hour.
One of the biggest misconceptions with meteor showers is that you need to look in a certain part of the sky to see these meteors often called ‘shooting stars’, when the opposite is true.
During the peak of a meteor shower, meteors are visible in all areas of the sky, not just near the radiant point.
You want to get as much sky in your field of view as possible. My favorite approach to meteor viewing is a backyard trampoline or banana lounge and just look up!