Orionid Meteor Shower 2022 Set to Peak This Week: How to See It

Whenever the famous Halley’s Comet makes a journey through the inner solar system every 75 years, leaving behind clouds of dust and cosmic debris. And around this time every year, our planet floats through some of these clouds, creating what we know as the Orionid meteor shower.

When the cometary debris collides with our atmosphere, it burns up in a fleeting instant, creating the brief streaks across the sky we call shooting stars. Larger or slower-moving bits can flare up as larger, brighter fireballs.

The 2022 Orionids will peak this week Thursday evening October 20th through next morning. The American Meteor Society predicts that under ideal conditions, skywatchers could catch between 15 and 20 meteors an hour, but sometimes the shower surprises with outbursts that triple that number.

“The best time to see these meteors is from 1 a.m. to dawn local time,” explains Bob Lunsford of the American Meteor Society in a blog post for AMS. “At the time of maximum activity, the source of these meteors is directly east of Orion’s faint lobe. This position is also about 10 degrees northeast of the bright orange star known as Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis). 10 degrees corresponds to your own fist with an outstretched arm.”

When you go looking for Orionids, you can try following Lunsford’s tips or take a shortcut by locating Orion with an app like Stellarium. Placing the constellation in the center of your field of view can maximize the experience, but anyone with a decently wide view of the night sky has a good chance of catching the shooting stars.

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This is an above-average year to see Orionids in the prime night, based on the Moon being a fairly faint crescent on the far side of Orion’s sky. This means it won’t wash out as many faint meteors as if it were brighter, but you can always maximize your situation by getting the faint moon in your back or as far from the center of your gaze as possible.

As a bonus, the Orionids aren’t the only meteor shower active this week. The long-lived Taurids and a handful of smaller meteor showers could also add several more meteors per hour to the show. The Taurids move significantly slower, which means they can create brighter fireballs.

It all adds up to one of the best nights of the year for enjoying a little bonfire in the sky. The only factor that can’t really be controlled or accounted for is the cloud cover at your location.

If the weather cooperates, take advantage of going as far away from light pollution as possible to a spot with expansive views of the sky where you can kick back on a lounge chair or blanket. Allow at least an hour for the viewing experience, including time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Be sure to bring whatever you need to stay warm and some snacks so you’re not tempted to walk in. Then just relax and watch the show.

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