Orionid Meteor Shower is currently at its peak and will remain so till October 22. Skygazers are having a field day as the Orionid meteor shower has reached its best viewing. Our Earth is facing a stream of particles almost head on, hence the meteors across the sky are some of the brightest and fastest among meteor showers.
These particles are coming from the Halley’s Comet or Comet 1P/Halley, which swings by Earth every 75 to 76 years. This icy comet leaves behind a trail of comet crumbs as it makes its way around the Sun. The orbit of our Earth around the Sun crosses paths with the debris at certain times of the year.
"You can see pieces of Halley's Comet during the Eta Aquarids [in May] and the Orionid meteor shower [in October and November]," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said.
About Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid meteor shower appears to radiate from Constellation Orion (The Hunter), hence named after it. Cooke told space.com that Orion is best visible around 2AM in the month of October and the best viewing will be on October 21 and 22.
The Orionid meteor shower sometimes produces 80 meteors per hour. The peak for 2017 would be at the smaller end of scale, echoing the peaks of 2016 and years before, predicted Cooke.
How to view Orionid Meteor Shower
Orionid meteor shower can be seen from anywhere on Earth and is visible anywhere across the sky. If you spot the Orion constellation, the meteor shower’s point of origin will be near the Orion sword, slightly north of his left shoulder (the star Betelgeuse). But don't stare straight at this spot, Cooke said, "because meteors close to the radiant have short trails and are harder to see — so you want to look away from Orion."
However, pollution can prevent your view of the Orionid meteor shower as in the case with most night time skywatching. The best place to view the event clearly could be a place away from city lights.
Step out of your homes around 1:30 am and let your eyes adjust to the dark for about 20 minutes. Watch it with naked eyes as binoculars and telescopes won't help in improving the view because they are designed to see more stationary objects in the sky.
Some Orionids will be very fast and bright as they can whiz by at up to 148,000 mph (238,000 km/h) in relative speed.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites
Cooke said the tiny comet fragments are called meteoroids and they are as small as a grain of sand. When they enter the atmosphere of the Earth, they become meteors. The ones that hit the surface of the Earth are called meteorites. The meteors heat up due to the friction from air resistance, creating a bright, fiery trail commonly referred to as a shooting star.