The Van Trump Report

Earth’s Best Light Show Peaks This Week

The night skies could be more spectacular than usual this week, thanks to the Orionid meteor shower, which will be one of the most beautiful meteor showers of the year. The meteor show is expected to peak on October 21-22 and will remain active till early November.

The Orionids earned their name by appearing to originate from the part of the sky that contains the constellation Orion, but Orionid meteors are actually fragments of dust left in the wake of the famous Halley’s Comet. In case you are wondering, Halley’s Comet which is only visible from Earth every 75 years or so, last visited our part of the solar system in early 1986 and won’t return again until June 2061. Halley is also quite unique in that its orbit around the sun is the opposite direction of the planets.

Scientists believe the comet has had its current orbit set somewhere between 16,000–200,000 years. A very broad time-range for sure, but it is very hard to calculate as it has been observed so few times. The first time its appearance was ever documented was in 240 AD. Though astronomers noted seeing it for centuries, no one put together that they were all observing the same object until 1705, when English astronomer Edmond Halley connected the dots. After recognizing its regular appearance in historical records, Halley correctly calculated that his comet would reappear in 1758. Sadly, Halley died in 1742 and never got to see the comet for himself.
For the best chance of seeing the most spectacular meteors, NASA says to gaze at the southeastern sky about 45 to 90 degrees away from the constellation Orion. If you can’t find Orion, no problem — just face the southeastern sky and give your eyes about a half-hour to adjust to the darkness, at which point you should start seeing meteors. Extremely early-risers or those getting from a late-night in the fields or at the bars should see some amazing skies. Enjoy the show!

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