Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tonight's Sky for October 21: Orionid Meteors Peak

Tonight will mark the peak of the Orionid Meteor shower for 2014, thus marking the climax for the 2-week event. Every October, Earth passes through the stretch of space junk shed by Halley's Comet, reaching the deepest concentration of debris tonight. According to some estimates, under ideal conditions (dark country skies), one can expect to see 10-15 meteors per hour. The reason the meteors are called Orionids is because the meteors seem to radiate from the constellation Orion. The best time to view the shower is in the pre-dawn hours, with 3-6am being best, as Orion is at its highest then.

Don't want to stay up that late? Don't worry, Leo clears the Eastern horizon around midnight and will climb higher as the night progresses. However, unless one lives out in the country, the early post-midnight hours will probably involve Orion being low in a light dome. To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of the city and to the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference as this will eliminate glare from those pesky street/house lights to a large extent.
Fortunately, this year's Orionid peak coincides with the New Moon, which means that nature's nightlight will be a non-issue.

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