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Get Ready For The Orionid Meteor Shower

Get Ready For The Orionid Meteor Shower

Love shooting stars? Then you’ll love the Orionid Meteor Shower, the second meteor shower of October, which peaks during the overnight hours of October 21-22 each year.

What Are the Orionids?

The Orionids are an annual meteor shower caused by debris from the most famous of all comets, Halley’s Comet. The comet last visited Earth in 1986 and will return next in 2061. Each time that famous comet passed around the Sun, it would leave in its wake a trail of cosmic dust and grit along its orbit. Our Earth passes closest to Halley’s orbit every mid-to-late October, and in the process, encounters this comet debris. The particles ram into our atmosphere at speeds in excess of 40 miles per second, and thanks to friction, they are raised to white heat in the span of a heartbeat, creating the effect of a “shooting star” in our sky.

They are called Orionids because the meteors seem to emerge or radiate from the constellation Orion, near the Orion-Gemini border in Orion’s upraised club. 

When To View The Orionids

The Orionids shower will be visible from October 16th-24th, with the highest period of activity on the 21st. The meteors can be seen with the naked eye. The best time to observe any meteor shower is during the early morning hours, from 4 to 5 a.m. local daylight time, with the numbers of meteors increasing until morning twilight interferes. Generally, observers can expect to see anywhere from 10 to more than 30 meteors per hour. A few Orionids may appear as early as the start of October and as late as November 7th.

An observer who plots these meteors on a star chart will notice that they seem to radiate or spray outward from northeastern Orion, between Betelgeuse and Gamma (γ) Geminorum, also known as Alhena; this region of the sky will be about two-thirds up from the southern horizon when morning twilight begins.

What’s In Store for 2020?

This year is a fine one to watch the Orionid meteor shower because we’ll have a moonless sky. Past displays have yielded 10 to 20 meteors per hour under similar conditions, especially during the wee hours before dawn when the constellation Orion the Hunter is positioned high in the south-southeast sky. These meteors tend to have dusty trains, and a few Orionids may be seen up to a week before and after peak.  

These meteors travel at around 42 miles per second when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, twice as fast as the more prolific Geminids of December. Some bright ones may leave pretty trains. Enjoy the show!

Do All Comets Produce Meteor Showers?

All comets shed dust in their wake. Some comets are dustier than others.

However, for a comet to produce a meteor shower, its orbit must cross/intersect our orbit in order for us to encounter/interact with that dusty debris to produce meteors. Comet SWAN does not cross Earth’s orbit, so it will not produce meteors.

We intersect the orbit of Halley’s Comet twice. Once in early May (creating the Eta Aquarids) and again in late October (creating the Orionids).

A fresh/new trail of dust that has been recently shed by a comet might produce a meteor shower lasting only a few hours. On the other hand, a comet that has circled the Sun numerous times and has shed many different dust trails may produce a meteor shower that can last several days, or even weeks.

Encke’s Comet, which takes only 3.3 years to circle the Sun, has probably been shedding debris for many hundreds or thousands of years and its associated shower (the Taurids) takes Earth many weeks to go through.

See the list of all meteor showers for the year here.

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  • Susan Saylor says:

    SE Michigan. Excellent viewing conditions tonight. Can’t wait.

  • John Dlugos says:

    LOL so many people asking what time can they see this. Does anybody read?

  • cloudy in Pa . rain in forcast. darn says:

    Cloudy in Pa, rain forcasted. Sigh

  • Barbiejorr says:

    Tablets I use Samsung take great pics

  • donald says:


  • Rosalind baldwin says:

    Disappointed did not see anything last night and I watch for hours from midnight till about 5am. Will it be better tinkghtf

  • Kat says:

    Do people not read???????
    “The best time to observe any meteor shower is during the early morning hours, between midnight and 5:00 a.m., regardless of your time zone”

  • Kim Bailey says:

    So happy ?just saw this post. Will we see this in Tujunga, CA

  • Rebecca says:

    Henry Molina…I live in Tempe AZ… With the cloud cover and possible rain, I don’t think you are going to see anything …so, so sorry.

  • Henry Molina says:

    I live in Arizona whats a good area in the sky for them.

  • Maile Consolacion says:

    Will we be able to see it in Hillsboro Oregon and what time is the best time to see it?

  • karrie says:

    I live in Jamestown by what time is a good time to watch it

  • Brandee Frasure says:

    I live in the Northwest Arkansas area, and was wondering what would be the best time for us to try to catch the meteor showers?
    Thank you for your time!

  • Brandee Frasure says:

    I live in the Northwest Arkansas area, when would be the best time to see the meteor showers?
    Thank you for your time!

  • Kimberly says:

    My husband & I will b watching tinite. Thanks for the info. Wish we were at my mom’s place on the lake to get a better show but will enjoy it in our new home anyway

  • Christine Wartena says:

    I cant wait for this to take place this is going to be EPIC!
    I am going to watch this out on the dessert where there isn’t any other light exposure anywhere. Thank you so much for sharing this information.I CANT WAIT

  • Toni Catoe says:

    The Folly Beach calendar photo search for 2017 is beginning ! If you have any photos you would like to be considered for the 2017 calendar, please submit to ron@rongrady.com. All submissions will be put in a folder and be considered for the calendar when the calendar committee begins it’s work next year. Photographers will be notified if their photo is selected. Toni Catoe (843)588-2055.

  • Sara says:

    Is this anywhere in North America?

  • Terry Johnson says:

    Thank you for the info. Love watching the moons, stars and anything astrological.

  • Rich Brown says:

    Saw two large contrails in the SE sky today (I am in Baltimore). I wonder if those had to do with this?

  • Celina says:

    I live in Pasadena tx; from what point will the comets come out of— South, East, North, West ????

  • jennifer says:

    My daughter was named after halleys commet

  • Robyn says:

    Hope you don’t have to work that day

  • Peggie says:

    Joe, are you saying that those with Android phones can get good pictures?

  • Shirlee Mapes says:


  • Joe says:

    This sounds like something Android fans can enjoy. iPhone users sit aside

  • jennifer says:

    A meteor shower for my b birthday!! Yay 🙂

  • Dr. Allan K. Warner says:

    Keep up the good work!

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