October 19, 2011
Orionid Meteor Shower Activity Increasing This Week
The Orionid meteor shower, formed from debris left behind by Halley's Comet, will be viewable during the early morning hours in both the northern and southern hemispheres over the next week, various media outlets are reporting.
According to an article written by Joe Rao of Space.com and reprinted by CBSNews.com, "The Orionids can best be described as a junior version of the famous Perseid meteor shower“¦ The meteors are known as "Orionids" because the fireballs seem to fan out from a region to the north of Orion's second brightest star, ruddy Betelgeuse."
Universe Today reporter Tammy Plotner explains that during the Earth's orbit around the sun, it passed through this stream of debris left behind by Halley's Comet, making it one of the "most predictable and most reliable meteor showers of the year."
Plotner says that the Orionids produce approximately 10-20 meteors each hour, and that the best opportunity to see the activity begins at midnight local time on October 20 and lasts until about two hours before dawn the following day.
However, Rao notes that the number of meteors actually would have started to increase in the vicinity of Monday, when about five per hour will be visible in the southern sky. He believes that the activity will peak on the morning of October 22, and will then slowly decrease, returning to a rate of five per hour on or around October 26. Some meteors may be visible until early to mid November, he adds.
"Every year around this time Earth glides through a cloud of dusty debris from Halley´s Comet," Bill Cooke of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center told Universe Today. "Bits of dust, most no larger than grains of sand, disintegrate in Earth´s atmosphere and become shooting stars“¦ It´s not an intense shower, but it is a pretty one."
Plotner adds that this could be "the year´s last, best meteor shower."
Image Caption: An Orionid meteor streaking across the sky below the Milky Way and to the right of Venus. The zodiacal light can also be seen in the image. Credit: Mila Zinkova/Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0)
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