Meteors are also known by many people as “shooting of falling stars”. They originate when the Earth passes near or through the leftover debris from a comet or asteroid’s orbit and those debris particles hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. When many of these meteors seem to originate from the same point, this is called a meteor shower.
This month we get a real cosmic treat with the Orionid Meteor Shower which peaks in the early morning of Thursday, October 22. And this year we won’t be affected by the Moon as it sets just after midnight AEDT. These can provide some of the fastest meteors among the annual meteor showers we see.
This is because the Earth is hitting a stream of particles almost head on. These particles are from a trail left by the debris of Halley’s Comet. We had their sibling shower earlier in the year – the Eta Aquarids in May.
They are best seen in the early hours of the morning – the hot tip is to set your alarm for about 4am on October 22. Look for the Orion constellation in the north to north-east skies.
Meteor showers can be spectacular to watch, and luckily for us all they are reasonably predictable.
Most meteors are fairly faint, so best viewing is away from lights. Places to head include a beach, bushland areas, or up a mountain. But if you do live in a town or city – you can spot the brighter meteors – just try and block out extra light in your own back yard.
So, find a dark spot and make yourself comfortable and stay warm. Grab a hot drink and either lay a blanket on the ground or lay back banana lounge or on the trampoline which is much more comfortable! Oh and add some insect repellent.
It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness. While you can just stand and look at the sky, it is actually much better for your neck to sit or even lie down. I prefer laying down – as I can see more of the sky that way – and also see satellites and other cool stuff – but then I am in love with the night sky!
Usually, the best time to look for meteors is in the hour before dawn, so it is better to get up early than stay up late, however, you can try anytime between midnight to dawn.