Orionid Meteor Shower 2018 Peaks This Weekend with Bits of Halley's Comet

Orionid Meteor Shower 2018 Peaks This Weekend with Bits of Halley's Comet. Come Saturday night, the moon will be in a waxing gibbous phase against the faint stars of Aquarius and will reach its highest point in the sky soon after 10 p.m. local daylight time. Later, on Sunday morning, when peak Orionid activity is expected, the moon will set just before 4 a.m.

The annual Orionid meteor shower, composed of debris from repeated passages of Comet Halley, runs from September 23 to November 27. It peaks between midnight and dawn on Saturday, October 21 under a dark moonless sky. At that time the sky overhead is moving directly into the densest region of the particle field, producing 10-20 fast meteors per hour. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but will be travelling away from the constellation of Orion. Credit: Starry Night software

If you're a meteor devotee, the year 2018 has been very kind to you. This past summer, the annual Perseid meteor shower reached its top the day after a new moon, ensuring that no moonlight would hinder those spotting celestial streakers. And looking ahead to December, the Geminid meteor shower, the most productive of all of the annual displays, will reach its peak when an almost-first-quarter moon is setting during the late evening hours.
And coming almost midway between these two popular showers, this weekend brings one of the most reliable meteor events. A sort of lesser version of the summertime Perseids, the Orionid meteor shower should reach its peak activity early on Sunday morning.
These meteors get their name from the fact that they appear to emerge from Orion's upraised club: an area just above and to the left of Orion's second brightest star, Betelgeuse, which shines with a distinctive reddish color. Orion is a winter landmark, so right now, during early autumn, he appears ahead of the Earth in our journey around the sun. The mighty hunter doesn't fully appear until after 11 p.m. local daylight time, when he has completely cleared the eastern horizon.


Astrophotographer Michael Humpherson caught an Orionid meteor on Panther Beach, just north of Santa Cruz, CA, on Oct. 24, 2012. Credit: Michael Humpherson
However, don't expect to see much in the way of Orionid activity at that hour. Rather, you should wait until around 2 a.m. in your local time zone, when Orion will have climbed well above the horizon. And just prior to the break of dawn, at around 5 a.m., Orion will appear highest in the sky toward the south. That's when Orionid viewing will be at its best.
Usually, Orionid meteors are rather dim and hard to see from light-polluted urban locations. So, I suggest you find a safe rural location for viewing. Lie down on a long lawn chair or inside a sleeping bag and look overhead, toward the southern part of the sky.
At first glance, this year looks like a very poor year for viewing this shower. Just three days after these meteors reach their peak, a brilliant full moon will light up the sky from dusk until dawn on Oct. 24th. Nevertheless, you can view the early stages of the display in a dark sky for several mornings prior to Sunday. 
Come Saturday night, the moon will be in a waxing gibbous phase against the faint stars of Aquarius and will reach its highest point in the sky soon after 10 p.m. local daylight time. Later, on Sunday morning, when peak Orionid activity is expected, the moon will set just before 4 a.m. So, there will be nearly 2 hours of dark skies between moonset and the first glimmer of dawn, when a single observer might count as many as 15 or 20 Orionids per hour. And because that occurs when the Orionids are at their best, the moon won't seriously affect this year's display.

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Scien-Tech News: Orionid Meteor Shower 2018 Peaks This Weekend with Bits of Halley's Comet
Orionid Meteor Shower 2018 Peaks This Weekend with Bits of Halley's Comet
Orionid Meteor Shower 2018 Peaks This Weekend with Bits of Halley's Comet. Come Saturday night, the moon will be in a waxing gibbous phase against the faint stars of Aquarius and will reach its highest point in the sky soon after 10 p.m. local daylight time. Later, on Sunday morning, when peak Orionid activity is expected, the moon will set just before 4 a.m.
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