The first meteors of the Orionid Meteor Shower are lighting up the California sky with streaking fireballs and stunning stargazers — and professional observers say the show is just getting started.
Some residents even reported seeing bright fireballs and hearing loud booms. One resident, Edward Pierce, stated:
“Happened to look over, saw a crescent shaped object, reddish orange in color. As it went away it started getting larger. Kind of expanding.”
Jonathan Braidman, an astronomer at Oakland’s Chabot Space and Science Center, states that what Pierce and other residents were seeing were small, car-sized pieces of rock and metal entering our atmosphere from the asteroid belt. When they crashed into the atmosphere, they ionized and set the air behind them on fire.
The Los Angeles Times notes that the Orionid Meteor Shower is named because the meteors appear to come from the constellation Orion. The meteors come from a trail of dust that was left by Haley’s Comet. At its peak, it normally produces about 20 meteoroids per hour, but it has intensified in recent years. Bill Cooke, of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, stated:
“Since 2006, the Orionids have been one of the best showers of the year, with counts in some years up to 60 or more meteors per hour.”
The peak time to see the Orionids should be Sunday before sunrise as the Earth passes through the densest patch of the comet’s debris. The National Weather Service officials noted that cloud-free skies and warm temperatures allowed California residents to see the meteors more easily.
California residents can expect to see more fireballs streaking across the sky in the coming days, as the warm temperatures and cloud-free skies are expected to stay throughout the weekend.