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Orionid Meteor Shower reaches it’s peak tonight!

by on October 21st, 2016

orionid nasaIf you’re not usually outside at night, you probably aren’t aware that something special is going at night this week.  Last night and tonight are the peak nights for viewing the 2016 Orionid Meteor Shower. The Orionid meteor shower began on October 16 and ends around October 27th.  It happens every year in late October when the earth passes through the stream of ice particles and rocks trailing Haley’s Comet.

haleys

Haley’s Comet has a highly elliptical 75.5 year orbit around the Sun. It last passed through the inner part of the solar system in 1986.  Each time it passes the Sun a bit of the ice on the comet melts and rocks and larger chunks of ice break off and join the stream of debris following the comet.

Nasa radiantThe Orionid Meteor Shower gets its name from the fact that the point in the sky it appears to originate from – called the radiant – is just next to the constellation Orion.

 

 

orion 1Orion – named for the hunter in Greek mythology – is easily recognizable in the night sky if you look for three bright stars close together in a strait line – this is “Orion’s Belt”.

Orion is one of the most prominent constellations in the sky. Due to it’s location on the celestial equator, it can be seen from all over the world.  (The celestial equator is an imaginary line projected in space directly above the Earth’s equator.)

 

orion 8

The two brightest stars in Orion are the blue-white supergiant Rigel and the red supergiant Betelgeuse.

It may not be as easy to see the smaller meteors this year, thanks to the Supermoon we just had.  My dog and I were out at 5am Friday and was surprised to see 3 quite large meteors in less than 20 minutes.

You have two more chances to view meteor showers in 2016.  The Leonids will peak on November 16 and the Geminids on December 13th.  Cross your fingers and hope for clear skies.

To learn more about Astronomy, visit the 520’s on the second floor.

 

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