Orionids Meteor Shower to Peak This Week: What to Know

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Ren Junchuan/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The Orionids meteor shower is one of the most looked-forward-to celestial events of the year. Space debris from the famous Halley’s Comet sends shooting stars streaking across our night sky once every couple of weeks of the year. And for stargazers nationwide, the meteor shower is set to peak this week. Fortunately, we have all the information Outsiders need to make sure they have the best view.

According to CNN, the Orionids meteor shower will peak Friday, October 21st around 2 p.m. ET. However, due to daylight hours, most Americans in that time zone will need to observe the light show before then. The best viewing times will take place between midnight and dawn that same day. The outlet states stargazers who avoid most light pollution should see anywhere between 10 and 20 shooting stars per hour.

Viewers will also have a better view of the Orionids meteor shower as the moon temporarily grows dimmer as a waning crescent. Still, Bill Cooke, lead of the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office, suggested looking for shooting stars farther away from the moon so the light doesn’t obscure viewers’ vision.

Cooke explained, “It takes about 45 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark, so they can be more sensitive and see finer. If you look at your bright phone, a streetlight or the moon, you’re going to ruin that night vision.” He also stated that stargazing is something that “takes time.” So expect to spend about two hours watching the sky to get the full effect of the Orionids meteor shower.

All About the Orionids Meteor Shower:

The Orionids meteor shower peaks Thursday night into Friday. However, the spectacle actually began about a month ago on September 26th. Once the peak shower passes, stargazers can still catch glimpses of the light show through November 22nd.

Unsurprisingly, the Orionids meteor shower gets its name from the nearby constellation Orion the Hunter. Per the news outlet, the Orionids radiate out from Orion’s sword point, which lies near the famous red star, Betelgeuse.

Overall then, Orion informs the shower’s name. But the shooting “stars” themselves are actually bits of dust left in Comet Halley’s path as it orbits our sun. What makes the Orionids meteor shower even more remarkable though is that it is viewable from all over the world, as long as the night promises clear weather.

Halley’s Comet is just as interesting as the Orionids though. But Halley makes a much less frequent appearance, only gracing our skies every 76 years. Cooke states that Halley’s Comet is visible from the earth just about once in a person’s lifetime, with its last passing taking place in 1986 and its next one scheduled for 2061.

“For those who haven’t seen Comet Halley,” he says, “if you don’t want to wait for its return, you can at least go out and see the Orionids.”