Tonight (Oct 21-22) Halley’s Comet sparks annual meteor shower, the Orionids. Astronomers recommend stargazers to watch it just before sunrise on Thursday, when it will reach its peak. The event takes place two weeks after the Draconid meteor shower which took place on October 13th.
But you do not need a telescope or binoculars to admire the light show. You can also watch it online. Researchers said that this year the Orionid meteor shower would be at its maximum Thursday morning just before sunrise.
The moon is expected to set at 1:30 a.m., so there won’t be any interference that could prevent you from watching the meteor shower. On Thursday morning, the celestial event should be visible for nearly all people in North America.
But there are other types of interference that may prevent you from seeing Halley’s Comet’s debris briefly lightning up the skies. If the skies are cloudy or if there is too much pollution, the meteor shower won’t be visible.
Still, you can watch it on Slooh Community observatory’s website. Slooh partnered with experts from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to make things possible. The webcast will start at 8:00 p.m. EDT and continue through the night.
NASA will also broadcast the show from its Marshall Space Flight starting 10:00 p.m. EDT. Let’s just hope that the skies will be clear when that happens. You can access NASA’s webcast at the space center’s Ustream channel.
On the other hand, even if the skies are clear, the Orionids won’t be very bright despite reaching their peak tonight. Bill Cooke, researcher at the U.S. space agency’s Meteoroid Environments Office, stated that the meteor shower would probably be weaker this year. Astronomers expect dust from Halley’s Comet to spark about a dozen meteors per hour.
Astronomers explained that Halley’s Comet sparks annual meteor shower because Earth enters a cluster of debris generated by the comet. The closest encounter our planet had with the comet was in 1986, and the next visit should occur again in 2061 when the comet returns in the inner solar system.
Yet there is another annual meteor shower generated by the comet – the Eta Aquarids, which will debut in May. Scientists explained that the comet leaves a lot of debris in its journey around the sun.
Orionids were named after the constellation from which they seem to stem every year – Orion. Yet you won’t need to look for the constellation to make sure that you do not miss the meteor shower. Orionids will be visible in all parts of the sky.
Image Source: Wikipedia