RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When our pesky clouds finally clear away, you may see a few shooting stars skirting quickly across the night sky over the next few weeks. The Orionid meteor shower is going on right now, but it won’t reach a peak until next Wednesday and Thursday, October 20 and 21.
While we always encourage spotting the meteors when the shower is at its peak, this year that may not be your best option. The October full moon occurs this year on the morning of the 20th, creating light pollution, and making the meteors harder to see.
If you live in a dark enough area away from the lights of town, even though this week will not be “peak viewing” you should still see a number of meteors streaking across the sky. With any meteor shower, in order to maximize your experience, there are a few tips and tricks.
- As mentioned above, get away from city lights. Even lights from your neighbor can create just enough light pollution that your eyes may not see the meteors as easily.
- Pack patience. It takes our eyes roughly 30 minutes to adjust to the dark, so the rule of thumb is to watch the sky for at least one hour. This gives your eyes time to adjust and offers you the best chance of seeing multiple meteors. Remember, you can see up to 20 an hour, but they are very sporadic and not evenly dispersed through the sky.
- Don’t get caught up on where to look. Orion, the constellation the shower appears to radiate from, will be in the southeast sky. While you can watch the meteors appear to fly out of Orion, you will have a better chance of seeing long-tailed meteors if you look away from the constellation.
The Orionid Meteor Shower is actually debris from arguably one of the most famous comets in space: Halley’s Comet (you can start singing Shinedown if you want; I won’t judge!) Every year around this time as Earth travels in its orbit, it passes through the debris field of Halley’s Comet.
As this debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it burns up, creating the bright streak of light we see darting across the sky.
While we may not be able to see as many meteors as in years past thanks to light pollution from the full moon, as the clouds clear, you should be able to get out the next few nights and still be able to see a handful of meteors.
If you’re able to snap a picture of any, send them our way to the email firstname.lastname@example.org.