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What You Need to Know About the 2016 Orionid Meteor Shower

Sep 27, 2016 05:18 AM EDT
meteor shower
The annual Orionid meteor shower will occur this October. Here’s what you need to know.
(Photo : Joshua Tree National Park / Flickr)

One of the best annual meteor showers will occur this October.

The Orionid meteor shower will be active for one month starting Oct. 2 until Nov. 2, and can vary with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of between 10 to 70 meteors per hour. It will peak on Oct. 21, Friday night into Oct. 22, Saturday morning (10:00 PM EST on Oct. 21, 2:00 UT on Oct. 22), and will grace the skies of Europe and Africa during the early morning hours.

This year, the Orionid meteor shower is expected to produce a maximum ZHR of 15 to 25 meteors per hour. The radiant will be in the constellation of Orion near the juncture with Gemini and Taurus. However, the Oct. 21 show will coincide with the last quarter moon located close to the radiant, spoiling optical observations.

But it is advisable to catch the meteors before the moon rises or face west in the sky to get away from the moon's light. The moon will only be 19 degrees east of the radiant in the adjacent constellation Gemini during its peak on the morning of Oct. 22, but it will move farther on through the last weeks of October, Universe Today reports.

Unlike other meteor showers, the Orionids display is unpredictable. There are years when the Orionids barely make 10 meteors per hour during peak days. For this season, dust particles from comets will occasionally light up the sky. For stargazers, find a dark and clear patch of sky or a place that could block the moon, like a building or hillside. Expect the display to pick up during the dawn, as the Earth turns forward and moves into the meteor stream.

The Orionids occur when the Earth passes through the debris of Halley's Comet, which is also responsible for the Eta Aquarid meteor shower every May. Halley last entered the inner solar system in early 1986 and will again orbit closest to the sun on July 28, 2061.

Other meteor showers active in the last quarter of the year are the Draconids (Oct. 8), the Taurids (late October to early November), the Camelopardalids (short-lived outbursts in early October), the Leonids (Nov. 17), the Geminids (Dec. 14) and the Ursids (Dec. 22).

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