Calling all night owls: Orionid meteor shower’s Monday night peak to dazzle stargazers

Composite image of shooting stars with a silhouette of a small tree during the 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower.

Composite image of shooting stars with a silhouette of a small tree during the 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower.

One of the best meteor showers of the year will peak early this week and will treat onlookers with nearly two dozen meteors per hour, as long as clouds do not interfere.

People planning to view the Orionid meteor shower should mark their calendar now for the night of Monday, Oct. 21 into the early morning of Tuesday, Oct. 22 as the shower reaches its peak.

“I would rank the Orionids in the top five meteor showers of the year,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said. ”It will be the strongest shower since the Perseids of August.”

“Sparked by Halley’s Comet, the Orionids provide 20 to 25 meteors per hour on the peak night,” Samuhel said.

However, there have been several years in recent memory where the Orionids have exceeded expectations. “In exceptional years, such as 2006-2009, the peak rates were on par with the Perseids (50-75 per hour),” the American Meteor Society (AMS) said.

A meteor glowing near the Milky Way. (Image/ScienceAtNASA)

Onlookers may spot shooting stars streaking across the sky beginning late Monday evening, but they will come in much greater numbers later in the night.

“This shower will be best viewed after midnight,” Samuhel said. “If you can spot Orion, then get ready for some meteors.”

This is because the shower’s radiant point, or point of origin, is located near the constellation Orion which doesn’t rise until after 11 p.m. local time. The higher the radiant point is in the sky, the higher the hourly rates of meteors per hour.

However, onlookers do not need to look at the radiant point to see meteors as they will appear in all areas of the sky.

Unfortunately, the moon will be a bit of an issue this year as it will rise just after midnight on the peak night and will be around 50% illuminated, Samuhel said. This added light in the sky will make it more difficult to see some of the dimmer meteors, so late-night stargazers should look for meteors in parts of the sky away from the bright moon.

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