The Orionid meteor shower takes place every year at this time as the Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from Halley’s Comet and it should reach a peak this Sunday morning, October 21st, in the pre-dawn hours. This year might be especially good with no moon to spoil the show and at least 25 meteors per hour can be expected when the meteor shower hits its peak. Of course, this is all predicated on the idea that skies will be mostly clear and there is some hope for good viewing conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region as the weekend weather looks pretty decent from this vantage point.
The meteors for this event will streak out of the constellation Orion and the overall shower setting is framed by constellations Taurus and Gemini and, in this particular year, Venus and Jupiter will form a bright triangle with the bright star called Sirius (the Dog Star) in the pre-dawn eastern sky.
One of the characteristics of this particular annual meteor shower is that the meteoroids from Halley’s Comet travel at very highs speeds (148,000 mph) with only the November Leonids being faster. Speed is important because fast meteors have a tendency to explode and these “fireballs” can occasionally leave incandescent streams of debris in their wake that linger for minutes. In fact, the “meteor smoke” can be twisted by upper air winds into intricate shapes that may be quite interesting.