The Washington Post

Orionids meteor shower peaks tonight

Fireball photographed during 2009 Orionids. ( NASA )

The Orionids are one of the major shooting star displays each year. The name derives from the fact that meteor streaks appear to radiate from the just above the head of constellation Orion, the “Hunter” and not far (visually speaking) from its right shoulder marked by the bright red star, Betelgeuse.

Brilliant multiple meteor streaks that can all be connected to a single point in the sky just above the belt of Orion, called the “radiant.” ( NASA )

So far this has not been an especially great year for meteor showers. Typically the most prominent display of shooting stars is the Perseids in August. While several prominent streaks and a couple fireball s were observed last August, the Perseids were largely obscured by the light of a full moon. What might have been a spectacular meteor shower earlier this month, the Draconids , was not to be since the peak occurred during daylight hours over North America.

During the Orionids peak tonight, a waning crescent moon will rise into the eastern sky about 2:20 AM (Saturday). The 25% or so illuminated portion if the Moon’s disk might interfere somewhat with the Orionids, but not come close to overpowering the potential for a great show – providing you can find a nearby viewing location removed from the majority of light pollution from cities, shopping centers, etc. (and, of course, clear skies).

Via NASA: A map of the morning sky on Saturday, Oct. 22nd at 5:30 a.m. local time, viewed facing southeast ( NASA )

On average watchers should expect to see between 15 and 20 yellow and green fast moving meteoroid streaks across the sky per hour. However, in the past few years Orionids have been especially strong and bright and accompanied by breathtaking fireballs that create persistent visible dust trails at high levels of the atmosphere. There is no way to know if this trend will continue through this year’s Orionids.

As great as in might be to “sleep in” on Saturday morning, rising early for this (or any other prominent meteor shower) is well worth the opportunity to see a natural wonder of the near space environment in which we all reside.

Please feel free to send in meteor sightings and your reactions to the experience. Submit photographs you take to our Night Sky gallery here.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
In defense of dads
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
For good coffee, sniff, slurp and spit
How to keep your child safe in the water
How your online data can get hijacked
Play Videos
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How much can one woman eat?
Play Videos
What you need to know about Legionnaires' disease
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom