Orionids Meteor Shower Starts This Weekend

At its peak on Wednesday night, the Orionids shower should produce 20 to 25 meteors an hour—a "relatively decent show," according to astronomer Anita Cochran, of the University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory.

While the Orionids are not as flashy as some other meteor showers, she said, "it's a known shower that comes along regularly, … and the moon will be down, so that will help."

A big, bright moon can make it hard to spot streaking meteors. But the moon will be new during this year's Orionids peak, she said, meaning it'll be dim and will dip below the horizon not long after sunset.

Orionids' "Very Recognizable" Region

The Orionids are so named because the meteors appear to radiate from near the constellation Orion, aka the Hunter.

This easily spotted constellation "kind of looks like an hourglass with a very recognizable belt of stars," said astronomer Mark Hammergren of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

(Related: "Famous Star Is Shrinking, Puzzling Astronomers.")

In addition, "the constellation is visible from pretty much anywhere in the world, because it appears along a line of sight close to the Equator," he said.

How to See the Orionids

At this time of year, Orion rises at about 11 p.m. local time worldwide, so the best time to view the Orionids will be after midnight, Hammergren said.

For the best views, Hammergren and Cochran both recommend going to a dark site away from city lights and allowing enough time for your eyes to adjust to seeing fainter objects in the sky.

"You don't need binoculars," Cochran added. "Just lie back in a reclining chair or on a blanket and enjoy the show."

But dress warmly, Hammergren advised: "You always cool off more than you think you will just lying there—that's a lesson novice astronomers learn real fast!"


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