The Orionids — known for being quick and bright, according to NASA — is visible every year from Oct. 4 to Nov. 14. And this year’s peak is expected overnight tonight.
As the Earth orbits through the debris trail of 1P/Halley, also known as Halley’s Comet, a meteor shower results as the particles enter our atmosphere. According to NASA, the best time to look for Orionid meteors is just before sunrise Saturday when the Earth encounters the densest part of Halley’s debris stream.
Here are 4 ways to view and capture a great photo of the the bright and quick meteors as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.
Onslow County is home to many ideal stargazing locations including miles of beaches, acres of open fields and even backyards. Wide, unobstructed views will be the best way to view the shower. According to Mark Krochmal, manager for IT support with the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, back yards provide a cozy spot to hang out with friends and family while watching the shower.
“The best way to watch the Orionids is by getting together with a couple people. Everybody gets really excited when they see a bright meteor going through the sky,” Krochmal said.
2. The best view
Meteors can sometimes appear dim next to a bright moon or city lights. To make sure you and your family have the best view, avoid using cell phones and stay away from city lights and Halloween decorations. These lights can force your pupil to dilate, which limits the amount of light your eyes can take in — including the light of the meteors.
“Away from the city lights is usually to your advantage. Grab a good view to the south around midnight. Get your lawnchair, place it due south, and get comfortable with favorite drink,” Krochmal said.
3. Look to the southern sky
Due to perspective, the Orionid meteors will appear to emerge from a single point in the sky called the radiant.
According to NASA, the radiant will appear just to the north of constellation Orion’s bright star Betelgeuse.
“As the Earth continues to rotate, the point where comet debris is hitting the atmosphere becomes the radiant, which will be just above the constellation Orion. Ideally, you get the best view somewhere around midnight as Earth is heading directly into (the) stream of debris,” said Krochmal.
4. Set up video or long exposure for photos
For those that want to capture a photograph of this annual meteor display, a tripod and a camera with settings for long exposure is recommended. The long exposure can capture multiple meteor streaks, which can be difficult
“The meteors are not usually bright and they can come into any direction relative to the sky. That being the case, pick a point somewhere near the top of constellation Orion. Set your camera (or phone) and have the shutter open for 5 minutes at a time,” Krochmal said.
For those that don’t have this type of equipment, don’t worry. Video capabilities on your mobile device also capture the shower in high definition.
Comet of Origin: 1P/Halley
Radiant: Just to the north of constellation Orion’s bright star Betelgeuse
Active: Oct. 4-Nov. 14
Peak Activity: Oct. 21-22
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 20 meteors per hour
Meteor Velocity: 41 miles (66 kilometers) per second
Notes: The Orionids, formed from the debris of Halley’s comet, are known for being bright and quick.
Knowing the difference
Meteoroid: Any piece of rocky or iron debris flying through space is a meteoroid (larger ones can be called asteroids). These can range in size from a grain of sand to a boulder.
Meteor: If a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere, it compresses and heats the air as it streaks across the sky, creating a glowing path called a meteor.
Meteorite: The heat of the air friction melts the meteoroid. Any portion that survives to the ground is called a meteorite.
Comet: A comet is a solid body — or nucleus — composed of ice, rock, dust and frozen gases. Comets may leave a trail of debris as the fracture and disintegrate.