Skywatchers can look forward to next week, as one of the strongest meteor showers of autumn will peak on Tuesday evening. The annual Orionid meteor shower will peak Tuesday evening and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. If you stay up to watch the meteor shower, you can expect around 20 meteors per hour around most of the world.
A meteor is expected every few minutes at the height of the shower. The American Meteor Society regards the Orionids as a moderate shower capable of high solid activity. Less than two dozen meteors per hour are expected, but there is always a chance the shower will exceed expectations. NASA has said there is evidence that a larger-than-usual peak could occur sometime between 2020 and 2022.
A higher than usual peak occurred between 2006 and 2009 when observers counted 50 to 75 meteors per hour. However, meteor showers are notoriously difficult to predict. Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a field of debris left behind by a comet or asteroid. Most of the debris is very small, about the size of a grain of sand, but the debris burns severely when it enters the Earth̵
The Orionid Shower is made up of debris from one of the most famous comets, Halley’s Comet. The comet left two meteor showers that we can enjoy each year including the Orionids and Eta Aquarids that occur in early May. Halley’s Comet only passes through the inner solar system once every 75 years.
The Orionid Shower takes its name from the Orion constellation because the stars seem to shine from a point in the sky right next to the constellation. The best time to see the meteor shower is after midnight, when the radiation point rises higher into the sky and continues until dawn. The best views are from the Southwest and South of the United States.