Orionids Meteor Shower – Haley’s comet

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The Orionids, along with the Eta-Aqurids are the result of the gravelly debris trail left behind by successive passes of Halley’s comet as it completes its cycle of orbits around the sun and inside of the earths orbit every 76 years. Haley’s comet is perhaps the best known of all the short period comets and was last seen in 1986, a sight I was luck enough to see myself.
This years Orionid’s are favoured by the waxing (growing) gibbous Moon which sets between local midnight and 1am wherever you are, for the peak night of October 21st and morning of the 22nd this year. The shower may produce between 40 to 70 meteors per hour when at the Zenith (highest point in the sky). The Orionids often put on several early peaks of activity. In 1993 and 1998 one if these early  peaks was about as strong as the normal peak. This was observed on October 17/18 across Europe. This year could also be favourable on October 17/18 too, so keep watch !
Orionids Meteor Shower
I have been out myself on the morning of the 15th to look for any early Orionid’s & while I did not see a great number of them, what I did see was spectacular ! The first one was a brief bright streak, the second was brighter longer and about magnitude -4 (as bright as Venus), the 3rd one was a WOW moment. It moved to the North West just on the tree line from my mountainous location (In Cairns FNQ) at about 30Deg above the horizon. This one would be classed as a bolide as it exploded with a greenish flash and was bright enough to illuminate the trees ! By my estimates this puts it at aprox Mag -12, as bright as the full moon, very impressive.
Like all meteor showers all you need is your naked eye, a comfortable location at least shielded from direct light & preferably in a dark location away from ambient sky glow of the city or industry. A comfortable reclining chair such as a deck chair or panama chair is ideal to relax in & look towards and above the Radiant of the meteor shower. Orion should be easy to find as “The Saucepan” and come down about one handspan below (to the NE) to find the “Radiant”. The Radiant is the point from which the meteors seem to originate, but can they can appear at any point in the sky. Lay back with your feet pointing towards the NE to N and WAIT. Meteors typically come in bursts with periods of inactivity often lasting 10 minutes or so. A meteor shower is one of the easiest events to watch in the night sky, so get out there and enjoy it, the Earths free light show.
If you want want to find out more about astronomy, telescopes, binoculars, accessories, tours & our Mobile Planetarium come and see Night Sky Secrets at our store 21 Lake St Cairns Mon-Fri, The Pier – Cairns on Sundays or our online store. Ph: 1300 THESKY

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