Orionid meteor shower season lines up great shows for Arizona
The end of October opens up another great meteor season here in Arizona.
During the period from Oct. 17 to the end of the month, we experience the beauty of the annual Orionid meteor shower.
One of the oldest of the traditional meteor showers, the Orionid meteor shower has been observed with regularity the mid-1800s.
The meteor stream produces some fast meteors from the upper left region of the constellation of Orion the Hunter. More specifically, meteors are seen to come from the radiant, very close to the bright red super giant star, Betelgeuse.
Betelgeuse has been in the news lately, as the star that has been dimming at a rapid rate for the past few years.
That dimming has slowed down, but no one really knows why.
Here is a finder chart for locating the area of the night sky where the Orionids are best seen.
This year, the moon will not be a factor in limiting the number of meteors seen. It will set well before the peak Wednesday before dawn.
The Orionids are very fast meteors, which all come from debris of one of the most famous of all comets, Halley’s Comet.
The comet, last seen close to Earth in 1986, Halley’s Comet will not return to the Earth’s vicinity until 2061.
With clear and moonless skies, you should be able to see at least 10-20 of these unique meteors coming out of the eastern sky from midnight to dawn.
Meteor shower activity will pick up in November as we experience two additional showers of comet debris.
The first of these, will be the southern Taurids, a shower which has a wide period of activity, but looking to the northeastern sky after midnight during the period from Nov. 10 to mid-month may produce some nice slow moving fireballs.
Here is a finder chart for the southern Taurid meteor shower.
We have saved the best for last, as the Leonid meteor shower will return with a hopeful roar and reach a peak on the early morning hours of Nov. 16 and 17.
To view the Leonids, look to the eastern sky from 2 a.m. till dawn. The radiant of this meteor shower lays in the area of the “head” of Leo the Lion.
Here is a finder chart for the Leonids.
All debris from this shower are from comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, with an orbital period of 33 years.
Here in Arizona, the skies lit up with an amazing burst of well over 144,000 meteors per hour – that’s 40 meteors per second – for a short period around 4:54 a.m. on Nov. 16, 1966.
That was a most memorable event for those lucky enough to view it!
This year, we can expect up to 20 meteors per hour, under moonless skies.
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.