The 2011 Orionid meteor shower will be visible on earth just before dawn (at around 5am) on Friday October 21st and Saturday October 22nd – but don’t expect a spectacular show.
The Orionids are an annual phenomenon that occur every October, though visibility for this year’s shower is not expected to be clear. A large crescent moon will illuminate the night sky on Friday and Saturday, whereas a dark sky is best for watching meteor showers (living in a lit-up city will only hinder your chances).
This sums up a frustrating twelve months for (U.S.-based) meteor watchers. The LA Times notes how a full moon spoiled the view of the Perseids in August, and the Draconids from early-October peaked during daylight hours across North America.
And apparently, the Leonids meteor shower in November will be a similar washout. Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, told TheTimes:
“The moon has just decided to wash out the meteor storms this year. They are a subtle phenomena and you really need a dark sky. A bright moon nearby really ruins the show. It’s not going to knock your socks off this year, but if you are out in the desert or up in the mountains, it is certainly worth a look.”
The Orionid meteor shower consists of dust particles, each roughly the size of a single sand grain, entering the Earth’s atmosphere and exciting the air molecules around them. This reaction gives off light. The shower is named the Orionids because it looks as though it circles the Orion constellation.
So, anyone getting up early at the weekend to catch the show?