This month, the conditions are ‘almost’ perfect for viewing the Orionids Meteor shower. Stargazers can expect up to 20 meteors per hour.
The Orionids meteor shower is generated from Halley’s Comet. The shower peaks on the night of the 21st/22nd of October but can be viewed several days either side of the peak. The best views will be under dark skies, after midnight.
This shower emanates from the constellation Orion, which is visible just about everywhere on Earth. For those in northern WA, Orion will be higher in the sky, and may produce clearer meteors.
When to look: From midnight to early morning, 21st/22nd October
Which direction to look: Toward the northern horizon
Do I Need a Telescope to see a Meteor Shower?
You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see a meteor shower. It’s a great time to gather with friends, roll out your favourite picnic rug, pack the drinks and snacks, and start counting how many “shooting stars” you all see!
It’s best to view a meteor shower under a dark night sky. Most meteors will be quite faint so darker surroundings will make it easier to see them. You might consider heading out to a dark sky location at one of WA’s Astrotourism Towns. If you’re an astrophotographer, it is an excellent opportunity to image meteors over some of WA’s iconic landscapes. Where are WA’s Astrotourism Towns? Fingers crossed for a spectacular show!
What is a meteor shower?
Meteors are caused by debris entering Earth’s atmosphere. The debris can be as small as a grain of sand which burns up in the atmosphere and causes a bright streak of light to appear briefly in our night sky. The debris that causes a meteor can be travelling between 11 to 73 km/second.
A meteor shower is a time when you see lots of “shooting stars”. They are the result of Earth passing through the trail of debris left by a comet or other object that has come into our Solar System and orbited around the Sun.
What is the Moon phase, and will it affect viewing?
Fortunately, the Moon is in its first quarter during the Orionids this year. After midnight, the Moon will be below the horizon. This means that conditions are almost perfect for meteor shower viewing.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation where the “shooting stars” appear to be coming from. In the case of the Orionids Meteor Shower, the meteors come from the direction of the constellation of Orion. If you have a handy smart phone app that helps you identify objects in the night sky, search for Orion or the Saucepan, and you’ll be looking in the right location.
You might like to…
Become a Citizen Scientist and report meteor sightings! If you happen to see a very bright meteor (often referred to as a “fireball”), WA’s Fireballs in the Sky team based at Curtin University would love to know! Download the Fireballs in the Sky App and keep your eyes peeled!
Where's the Best Place to see a Meteor Shower?
You need a good dark night sky for the best view! Choose an Astrotourism Town destination. Happy meteor hunting!