The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight & Friday

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From the 2011 Orionid meteor shower near Mount Shasta, California

There is something magical about seeing “shooting stars” and you’ll have your chance from midnight to dawn tonight and again tomorrow night October 21st and 22nd.  Don’t get your hopes up that the Orionids will be a spectacular showing though.  The end of the full moon, or the waning gibbous moon, will wash out the faintest meteors. If you can find a spot away from the city, you may see a maximum of 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

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Halley’s Comet is really far away but we are intersecting the comet’s orbit.

What’s really cool about the Orionids is the debris comes from the most famous of all comets, Halley.  Comet Halley’s last visit was in 1986 and will return again in 2061. The comet is no where around but this time every year the Earth intersects the comet’s orbit.

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They are called as the Orionids because they appear to fan out from the constellation Orion, The Hunter. These particles, or meteors, are about the size, shape and color of Grape Nuts Cereal. These tiny pieces of debris slam the top of the Earth’s atmosphere 80 miles up.  Each meteor hits the atmosphere at 37 miles per second, creating a hot streak of superheated air that you see on the ground as a streak of light.  They burn up, never reaching the surface of the Earth.  It is inaccurate to call them “shooting stars” because they are bits of rubble.

Meteors

You don’t need any special equipment, simply go outside with an open view and away from as many city lights as possible. Lay down on a blanket or a lawn chair is comfortable too.

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