Bits of Halley’s Comet Rain Down

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 19, 2012 – 9:12 pm -

Over the next week Earth will be slamming into a debris field left behind by one of the most famous cosmic visitors in history – Halley’s comet.

While the icy interloper won’t return to our neck of the woods for another five decades, it still puts on a yearly sky show in the form of the Orionid meteor shower which peaks in the early morning hours of October 21st.

Read more about the Orionid meteors and how best to catch the sky show at National Geographic News

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Meteor Shower Underway!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 21, 2011 – 8:44 pm -

According the latest observational reports from skywatchers worldwide the Orionid meteor shower is currently at is peak and will be at its best until early morning hours of Saturday. Those in dark locations away from city lights will see more of the sky show with as much as 20 shooting stars per hour. Remember that while the shower is pretty light compared to others, its claim to fame is that each shooting star you see are bits and pieces shed from the famous Halley’s comet – something cool to think of when watching those streaks of light race across the skies.

Best way to enjoy the Orionids is to face the southeast horizon and sit back on a reclining chair and soak in the overhead sky – don’t forget to dress warmly. Don’t forget if you miss the peak Saturday morning then you can still catch straggler meteors throughout the weekend and into Tuesday!

For an observer’s guide to the Orionids check out my National Geographic story.

Here is a TB interview I did earlier today about the Orionids and other breaking space news

Here is a chart that shows the  LIVE Orionid meteor fall rate. Refresh browser regularly to see new updated counts as observers around the world plug in their data.

courtesy of IMO

Sky Show Extra: The International Space Station is making very bright flybys over the next week during early evening hours.If you’re lucky you may even see it twice in one evening because it only takes 90 minutes to make one orbit around Earth!

Check out this link where all you have to do is enter  your zip or postal code to get viewing timetables for when the ISS comes through your neck of the woods.

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Orionids Fast and Furious

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 21, 2009 – 10:58 am -

Latest estimates gathered by the International Meteor Organization says that the predicted major spike in Orionid meteor shower occurred this morning at 6 am EDT. Observers are recorded an average of 54 shooting stars per hour. Early reports so far are mostly coming in from Asia and Pacific region where the show might have been a bit better. North American numbers may have been more modest with about 25 meteors seen per hour on average. But these numbers will most likely change as more weary skywatchers who stayed up last night will start logging on and filing their reports. Check out the IMO graph in my post below that shows in realtime what the reported metoer numbers are as they come in. Check back often and you will see the values change as more observations are added from Canada and U.S.A..

But the show is not over yet. It will be worth going out tonight and over the next couple of nights to see straggler Orionids – some of which are known to be bright, fast fireballs.

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Orionids have Started Falling

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 20, 2009 – 3:45 pm -

According to observers reports sent in that last few hours to International Meteor Organization (IMO) – a clearinghouse for shower activity, the Orionid shower has begun and there is a definite upswing in the numbers of shooting stars seen per hour.  One observer in Greece reports seeing rates as high as 24 meteors per hour and another in Germany reports seeing 30 plus in the pre-dawn hours this morning. Latest predictions say that the real peak should occur around 6 am EDT tomorrow but there should be lesser peaks where bunches of shooting stars can be seen racing across the sky in 15 minute time periods in th hours before and after. In the last few years some observers have counted as many as 60 to 70 per hr. So while there is no guarantee on how intense the shower will be this year, it does put on a decent show for those keen observers willing to brave the outdoors.

For a viewing guide to the Orionids and skychart see my blog entry below.

IMO Graph below charts in red the number of meteors seen per hour (vertical-axis) over the past few days (horiz. axis), as reported by skywatchers worldwide. The trend is definitely upwards as Earth plows into the densest part of the cloud of Halley’s comet debris.

Realtime activity of early Orionids seen across the globe

Realtime activity of early Orionids seen across the globe

Stay tuned for more updates right here on what skywatchers are seeing and how good the show turns out to be. If you go out tonight or in the morning to watch the Orionids then share your obsevations and photos in the comments section below or by email at

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Halley’s Comet Remains Rain Down

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 19, 2009 – 10:21 am -

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

As meteors showers go, it’s pretty modest, but the Orionids do have one claim to fame – each and every shooting star you see is part of the debris shed from the most famous of all icy visitors, Halley’s Comet.

The Orionids are mostly caused by sand-grain sized pebbles ionizing in the upper atmosphere as they race across the sky at supersonic speeds. Orionids by the way are known to produce some of the fastest meteors you will ever see. These space pebbles are floating in a cloud that orbits the Sun and every year around the same dates our planet smashes into this cloud and produces the sky show we see. Like most of these cosmic showers, the Orionid cloud is left behind debris thrown off by a comet as it orbit our Sun. In fact the cloud follows the same orbit as its parent comet does. In Orionids case however, it has a more noble pedigree than most because its parent comet is considered a superstar amongst its kind.

Also, just like all other meteor showers, the Orionids gets its name from the constellation it appear to originate from in the sky, what astonomers call the shower’s radiant. In this case each and every streak of light you see can be traced back to the area in the sky occupied by the mythical hunter Orion – specifically just above it’s bright orange star Betelgeuse (see above starchart).

Halley's Comet return only in 2061

Orionid meteors follow Halley's orbit

This annual meteor shower officially runs from October 2nd to November 7th however there is a marked increase in activity (ie. higher number of meteors per hour) during the week of October 17 to October 25th. The actual peak time is late night, Tuesday, October 20th into early morning hours of Wednesday October 21st. During that small viewing window the numbers go up to 20 to 30 meteors per hour. Your best chances of seeing most of the show is away from the light pollution of the city in a dark country location. Look towards the northeast overhead skies – where Orion will rise near midnight. No need for a telescope or binocular – just cover up with winter gear and lay back on a reclining lawn chair with lots of blankets and a hot chocolate, and enjoy the show!.

This year’s conditions will be in our favour because during the Orionids peak dawn hours the crescent Moon will remain below the horizon, making for a darker sky. But even if you can’t get away from suburbia, you can still look for fireballs as the Orionids are particularly known to produce these superbright meteors during its peak week.

So while you may have missed Halley’s comet back in 1986, and may not be around for its next retun in 2061, you get a chance this week to see part of this cosmic rock star’s show as its entourage and groupies make their appearance in the night sky this week. 

Editor’s note: I have gotten a few reports from southern Ontario region of bright fireballs being seen Saturday night. Depending on the direction of where they seem to originate from ie. Orion constellation area, these could be early members of the Orionid meteor shower. When you do see one of these shooting stars, try tracing their path back across the sky. This helps out a lot in IDing them.

Stay tuned right here for an update later this week. You can also get late-breaking news by following me on Twitter and Facebook, or get a daily email alert sent directly to your inbox.

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