The Orionid meteor shower is one of my favorite meteor showers and will be in our skies soon!! Get a plan to get outside and watch the shower! This guide will tell you what you need and how to make a plan to see the shower on your own! If you want to skip the planning just book a tour to see the shower and more up close in a telescope with me.
When: October 24th/25th (The shower will peak on the 21st but with full moon being on the 20th I would actually recommend to catch the shower after ‘peak’ as you’ll be able to see more)
Where: Earth the Orionids are visible in most latitudes. Just be sure to get a dark cloud free spot.
How: The best way to increase your chances to view any meteor shower is to: 1) turn off all lights and let your eyes adjust to the dark for 20min. 2) lay on your back under the night sky to maximize the amount of your field of view taken up by the sky. I recommend heading to a park with a picnic blanket and lay out on your blanket in the middle of a light-less grassy field.
What you need to best see it:
Something to lay down on (picnic blanket, trampoline, hammock, sleeping pad, rug, air mattress, etc.)
Warm clothes for falling temperatures
A sky map app on your smartphone
Meteor showers are caused by the Earth traveling through a part of its orbit that has lots of debris left behind from a commit. As the Earth travels through this debris, the debris causes “falling stars” “shooting stars” or more correctly “meteors”. Small meteors (about the size of a grain of sand) are responsible for most of the shooting stars we see. These small meteors are moving extremely fast when the earth hits them ripping electrons off air molecules in the upper atmosphere, making them light up “electrifying” the air. I feel like this is what makes them so electrifying to watch!
The Orionids are one of my favorite meteor showers because it is known for having the biggest and brightest meteors. The Orionids are about average for amount of meteors you see at 20 meteors per hour but they more than make up for this with the brightness of the meteors. This is because the meteors of the Orionids are some of the fastest meteors the Earth hits all year. This is because the Earth is hitting the debris field nearly head on. The particles come from Halley's Comet (1P/Halley) which is seen every 75 to 76 years, and the debris it leaves behind is in the perfect angle to cause some of the brightest shooting stars we see all year.
Unfortunately this year won’t be the best for my favorite meteor shower. The shower will “peak” in late October with the night of the 21st technically being the “peak”. However, I recommend checking it out after the “peak” because this will get you a better early evening view. With the full moon being on the 20th you will be able to see more shooting stars with the moonless hours just after sunset (~6:30p MST) on the 24th. The moon will unfortunately subtract with its natural light pollution and you will see fainter shooting stars on the 21st during the “peak”.
Location can have a huge impact on how many shooting stars you will see as well. You want a very dark open area. I recommend using this mapping tool to find the best spot near you: https://www.lightpollutionmap.info/#zoom=4.00&lat=39.1997&lon=-97.2914&layers=B0TFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF
I’m always impressed with places like Cherry Creek State Park or the Rocky Mountain arsenal for being so dark yet ~15 minutes away from some of the brightest areas in Colorado. Then there's places that are very dark like Nederland that's less than 1 hr from the brightest areas in the state. It’s all about finding that balance. You’ll still see the brightest falling stars in your backyard, the darker the better but don’t let it be a barrier to seeing the shower.
You want a clear area so when you lay down and look up you only see the night sky. trees/hills are nice to block out some of the surrounding light pollution but you don’t want them to block your view of the night sky and miss out on shooting stars behind them. Definitely check the weather as well, you're not going to see any shooting stars if it's cloudy. Weather.gov
Laying down under the night sky is the biggest cheat code to seeing more shooting stars. This shower is the “Orionids” meaning that the shooting stars will appear to radiate from the constellation Orion which will rising around 1030p MST in the Eastrn sky. You will still be able to see them all over the sky even when Orion isn’t out. Laying down so you can see the maximum amount of sky at one time is the best way to maximize your chances of seeing a shooting star. I recommend picnic blankets, trampolines, hammocks, sleeping mats, a rug, air mattress, anything that will let you lay out under the stars for a good amount of time in comfort.
With that you should be more than prepared to view the meteor shower this October!
Here’s a small list of other bonus things to see if you can spot while you’re out there:
The big dipper low in the north west sky
The Moon - you will get to watch the moonrise at 8:35p if you’re out on my recommended date of October 24th.
Venus - it will be the first “star” you can see after sunset low in the Western sky
Jupiter - Jupiter will be low in the South-Eastern sky next to just after sunset and rising high in the southern sky. You will be able to see up to four of Jupiter’s moons in a pair of binoculars or a telescope
Saturn - Saturn will be high in the South-Eastern sky next to Jupiter just after sunset and rising high in the southern sky You will be able to see the rings and some moons in a good pair of binoculars or a telescope
The milky way - if you’re in a dark enough area you won’t be able to miss it high in the sky going right over your head
Use a star app on your phone to identify other stars / constellations. This is a fun thing to play with but every time you look at your phone remember you are losing your night vision, making it harder to see dimmer shooting stars. Turn down your screen brightness and be courteous of others not to shine light in their eyes.
This was my 50th blog post! Thank you everyone for helping me grow this blog! To celebrate I’m offering 5$ off my tour just pick a date here: astrotours.org/booking and email me to redeem!
If you want to see all this and more in a telescope book an astronomy tour here:Astrotours.org/booking