This past summer night, immediately after sunset, many people gathered in the trivial-league grounds away from my house, eagerly awaiting the nightfall and the appearance of the stars. We also gathered there because the light was not too much in the direction of pollution and we got a clear and blocked view towards the northwest. As the sky darkened, we could finally see it: a comet needed, showing a beautiful, curved tail.
“No bad performance, considering we’re looking for a cosmic trash can,” I told the comet’s geysers. “Indeed, what we’re looking for is a piece of debris in space; think of that beautiful tail as ‘cosmic debris’; a few pieces of dust and gravel left behind by NEOWISE, tangling all the solar system.”
If you go out before dawn during the next week or so, you can try to catch a glimpse of the cosmic debris scene that has been left behind in space by a more famous comet: Haley. We call that cosmic waste the Orionid Meteor Shower. And 2020 will be a great year to watch, as the moon will be a thin crescent, with a new phase four days earlier and their peak activity set at 9:30 pm local time, and no poses. Any obstacle for potential meteor observers.
Related: How to see the best meteor showers of 2020
If the December Geminids and August Gust Persids are ranked as the “first string” in the annual meteor shower in terms of brightness and reliability, the Orionids are at Junior Varsity. This year they are to reach their maximum level before sunrise on Wednesday morning (October 21).
The name “Orionid” comes from the fact that the brightest – the place in the sky where meteors appear to fans – is just above Orion’s second brightest star, the Rudd Beatles.
Currently, in our journey around the Sun, the Orion constellation appears before us and has not fully advanced over the eastern horizon until 11 a.m. local day. After its best hours, at 5 a.m., Orion will be the highest in the sky to the south.
But to see the largest number of meteors, do not look in a cheerful direction, but about 30 degrees from it, in the direction of a straight overhead (zenith). Your clinked knob held at arm’s length is the equivalent of about 10 degrees wide, so looking for “three fists” from the Batalues would be to focus your gaze.
Best time to watch
Orionide Visibility October 16 to 26 26 Oct. Extends to 26, with intense activity of perhaps 15 to 30 meteors in 21 hours. 21. None of this flies out the steps before sunrise in the morning and if you catch sight of a meteor, there is about a 75% chance that it will. Haley’s comet is a byproduct. The very last Orionid Strugglers usually appear sometime in mid-November.
The best time to watch is from 1 to 2 a.m. local time until the early morning light (5:45 a.m.), while Orion is high above the southern horizon. As high as Orion in the sky, more meteors appear in the sky. Orionides is just one of a handful of well-known meteor showers that can be seen equally well from both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Orionid meteors are usually dim and not well seen from urban places, so it is suggested that you find a safe rural location to see the best Orionid activity.
“They are easily recognizable by their speed,” as authors David Levy and Stephen Edberg wrote in their book, The Observer Meteors: The Association of the Lunar and Planetary Observer Meteor Observer Guide (Astronomical League, 1986). “At 66 kilometers (miles1 miles) per second, they look faster than their sisters, hair faster, faster than Eta Aquarius. And like Eta Aquarius, brighter family members tend to leave long-distance trains. Firebuses are possible after a maximum of three days. . ”
No doubt this is somehow linked to Haley’s comet makeup.
Comets are the remainder of the early days of the solar system, strange bits and fragments of simple gases – methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide and water vapor – not used when the sun and planets came into their present form. The meteors released into space from the wreckage of this comet are the remnants of the comet’s nucleus. All comets eventually disperse into meteor swarms and Haley is well into the current process.
These tiny particles – ranging in size from dust to sand grains – live along the orbit of the original comet, creating a “river of debris” in space. In the case of Haley’s comet, the dirty trail of its debris is more or less evenly distributed throughout its orbit. When these tiny bits of a comet collide with Earth, friction with our atmosphere raises them toward white heat and that effect is known as “shooting stars.”
And Haley’s comet has left a legacy that we see in the form of not just one, but two annual meteor showers. This is because its orbit comes close to Earth’s orbit at two different locations. An intersection point (indicated by Levy and Edberg) is in early May, producing a hasty display known as at Aquarius. The second point now comes, from mid-October to late, Orionids are produced.
At this point in time, Haley herself is very close to the long elliptical path around the sun outside Neptune’s orbit. His last visit to the inner solar system was in the winter of 1986. It will reach Aphelian in early December 2023 – its farthest point from the Sun, 28.8 miles billion miles (.2.88 billion km). Then, he will begin his long journey. Back to the Sun, due to return in mid-2061. If you were born at any time after 1983, you would be more than 50-50 more likely to catch it at a later return.
But for people like me – who probably won’t be when they return – Orionids will give us a chance to see at least some cosmic debris, Haley has lagged behind.
J Rao Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. He writes about astronomy, farmers’ almanacs and other publications for Natural History magazine. Follow us on Twitter @speed.com and Facebook.