The night skies for this year’s Orionid Meteor Shower are expected to be especially dark this year, providing ideal viewing conditions. But if you’re trying to learn the best time to watch you might be confused. Some articles are saying it begins tonight while others say that you should tune in tomorrow.
So what’s the best time to watch? Between one and two hours before sunrise on Tuesday, Oct. 21.
The peak hour when you can expect the most meteors streaking across the night sky will be before sunrise on Tuesday morning across the US, according to NASA.
So if you’re looking skyward at that time, you should be able to see between 20 and 30 meteors an hour, or one every couple of minutes.
The Orionid Meteor Shower is the result of Earth passing through the debris trail of the famous Halley’s Comet. As Earth passes into the debris path, dust and rock are pulled into our atmosphere by Earth’s gravity and fall toward the surface at speeds up to 45 miles per second.
This creates a tremendous amount of friction between the meteor and gasses in the atmosphere, which heats up the debris and makes it shine. What we see as a result is a series of shooting stars.
This year’s meteor shower will be particularly spectacular because the Moon is currently a tiny sliver, so the night sky will be especially dark for us to enjoy the show. Some of the US will have to content will cloudy skies, though indicated by the map below.
We will be passing through the debris from Oct. 20 and last through the morning of Oct. 22. We’ll hit the densest part of the debris on the morning of Oct 21, which is peak observing time. Set your alarm for a couple of hours before sunrise tomorrow so you don’t miss it. Below is a map of the best spots for viewers in the US.
For those of you who might not get a chance to catch the shower due to inclement weather, NASA will begin streaming the event live on Oct 20 at 10 pm EDT (7 pm PDT). And the live online observatory, Slooh, will be streaming the event live (feed below) starting tomorrow at 8 pm EDT (5 pm PDT) on Oct 21.
The reason for some of the confusion about the best time to view the shower is natural, Bill Cooke at the Meteoroid Environments Office for the Marshall Space Flight Center told Business Insider in an email: “The uncertainty is due to a couple of factors: a) the Orionid stream, produced by Comet Halley, is broad, and can be ‘clumpy’, which can result in multiple maxima, and b) it is hard to visually discern the exact time of the peak when the shower rates are not expected to be high (like this year).”
“Sometimes meteor science is not very exact <sigh>,” Cooke wrote.
Watch the NASA livestream on Oct 20, at 10 PM EDT:
Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
And watch the livestream from Slooh here, starting Oct 21 at 8PM EDT:
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