Next Meteor Shower – The Orionids – October 2009

My earlier article on the Perseid Meteor shower back in August, seemed to help lots of people. So I’m going to follow the same format here for the next big shower, the Orionids.

Q. What are the Orionid meteors?

A. Each year in October as the Earth orbits about the Sun, it passes through an area of Space containing dust and rock fragments left behind by Halley’s comet. As these particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere they burn up, producing streaks of light we can see in the Night Sky. Occasionally, larger particles may burn up producing very bright “Fireballs” that can sometimes even be seen in daylight

Q. Why is this October meteor shower called the “Orionids”?

A. Because of the location of the Halley’s Comet debris in space, the meteors APPEAR to us on the Earth’s surface to originate from the constellation of Orion. This is nothing more than a “line of sight” effect however. The rock fragments which cause the meteors are actually very close to Earth – they have nothing to do with the distant star pattern we call Orion.

Here’s a graphic showing the apparent origin of Orionid meteor trails (the Radiant), located between the constellations of Orion and Gemini.

Orionids Meteor Shower Radiant, East Horizon, 21 Oct 2009

Orionids Meteor Shower Radiant, East Horizon, 21 Oct 2009 (Click For Larger Image)

Q. So will the meteors be seen only in the area of Orion?

A. No. The streaks of light may appear anywhere in our sky… But if you extend the traces backwards and continue the path, they will seem to have started in the area of Orion.

Q. When is the best time to look for the Orionid meteors?

A. The range of dates is expected as 16th – 27th October, with the peak meteor activity expected on 21st October 2009. In recent years, good numbers of meteors have been seen 1-2 days before and after the peak date, so it should be well worth observing over the period 18th-23rd October.

In some previous years, a double-peak of activity has been reported and this is an unusual feature of the Orionid shower. This may be because the orbit of Halley’s Comet brings it back to the Sun every 76 years, giving plenty of opportunity for depositing dust and debris.

Q. Will 2009 be a good year to observe the Orionid meteors?

A. It should be. Sometimes a bright Moon spoils the observing of meteor showers, but this time it’s very favorable. At the expected Orionid peak, the Moon will be just 2 days old. Therefore, it won’t be bright and it will set below the horizon, soon after sunset.

Q. How many meteors can I expect to see?

A. At the shower peak, something like 25 meteors per hour is predicted (this is called the ZHR – Zenithal Hourly Rate). Obviously, you will need dark, clear sky conditions to see the most meteors, and the number is just a prediction.. this makes it more fun to get outside and see for yourself, how many meteors appear!

Q. What equipment do I need to observe the meteors?

A. Good news… no equipment is really needed – just use your eyes (it will help if you allow 10-15 minutes for your eyes to become accustomed to the dark). If you like, you can try using binoculars too, but they may limit your view to a small area of the sky.

Q. Any other suggestions?

A. It’s getting cold in October, so make sure you wear warm clothing if you’re planning to spend an extended period outside, watching for meteors. Your observing session will also be more comfortable with a reclining garden chair, allowing you to lay back and look upwards. Some people like to put blankets or cushions on the ground, so they can lay flat and feel closer to the Universe, as they hopefully experience a memorable meteor display in the Night Sky.

Conclusion

Here’s wishing you the best of luck with your Orionids 2009 experience!

If you have questions or comments, please leave a reply below. I’ll do my best to answer each one personally (although I have to admit, the hundreds of questions on the Perseid meteor post, rather overwhelmed me!).

75 Responses to Next Meteor Shower – The Orionids – October 2009

  1. Georgina says:

    Saw a fireball flying through the sky tonight, could this be one – it’s a little later than you predicted

  2. montana hunter says:

    At about 6:30-45ish on the morning of Sunday the 25th the entire sky lit up for a split second. We were hunting in central Montana and about 10 different people that were in different areas of the mountains all saw the same thing at the same time….. Could this possibly be a meteor from the Orionid Showers?

  3. coopdog says:

    My mom n dad seen a huge fireball in the sky last night… they thought it was a plane on fire…. Birmingham England!

  4. Cheryl says:

    I live in Dungannon, Ontario, Canada. The morning of October 25, 2009 around 6:30 am I noticed two large bright objects coming down from the east in the sky. Are these meteors?

    Cheryl

  5. Ray says:

    I live in Louisiana and I’ve seen 14 meteors between the times 1a.m. and 3a.m. Was a great show to watch. Hopefully I see more tomorrow morning!

  6. Eleanor Dooks says:

    I saw one from Ayr, on the West coast of Scotland this evening at about 7pm local time. A long, bright fall. Anyone else notice it?

  7. mooncrazy says:

    Saw about ten this morning, Friday and thought it was way late. This was about 4:30 am PST. Can’t wait for the Leonids in Dec.

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Thanks for sharing! There were predictions yesterday that the higher than normal Orionid meteor rates, would continue for a couple more days. So it’s good to read your report.
      ATB

  8. ynkee says:

    Live in the NE U.S. and stayed up til 4 a.m. on the morn of 10/21. Only saw two. VERY DISAPPOINTED. And it’s not very often that we have such gorgeous weather conditions for viewing here. I have a feeling the show started when I went to sleep.

    Now, I don’t think I have the energy to wake up before dawn 10/22 to catch what is probably the last best showing of this year.

  9. Jim says:

    Just wondering if anyone else in Arizona saw.

    At precisely 4:00am, (11:00 UTC), in Phoenix, (I checked my cell phone), an extraordinarily bright meteor streaked the sky from far east to far west. It appeared somewhere south of Canis Minor and burned out in the west about 30 degrees above the horizon. What a show!
    Cheers.

  10. mike tooze says:

    hi kevin.i live in bristol uk was wondering if you might have an idea of what compass point should i generaly look towards …i have been informed by our local tele news program…around midnight tonight but no general direction…by the way its the first time i have seen your page…impressive…yours truly. mike

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Thanks a lot Mike!
      Meteors can appear anywhere in our night sky, but for this shower you are best to look towards the constellation of Orion. This rises in the East at about midnight, so the best bet (with clear skies) is from then onwards.
      Best of luck. Kevin

  11. beena says:

    hiya i live in london i was wondering what time would the meteor shower be seen?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi beena,

      The likely peak is in the early morning hours (when Orion has risen above the horizon). Here’s hoping your London skies are clearer than mine here in Kent, just now! Kevin

  12. Kristin says:

    Just sharing my sightings!

    I live in Charlotte, NC and went out this morning before dawn and saw a great show. I live in an urban area, so I worried about light pollution. However, from 5:30am-6:40am, I saw at least 20 meteors. It was great, and yes, they all seemed to radiate from an area very close to Orion’s belt. My husband couldn’t get out of the bed that early, but was jealous when I told him how many I saw. We will be trying again tomorrow morning (10/22) and hoping for the best.

    Just wanted to share with those that can’t possibly be up watching in the middle of the night(like me), that early morning is a great time too!

    Good luck!

  13. Will Fazzina says:

    It stinks. I woke up 1 hour and twenty minutes early and it was too cloudy for me to see the shower.

  14. Carol Leslie says:

    At about 1:15 a.m. in Holly Springs, NC, I was letting the dog out the back and looked to the south (I think)and saw a white stick figure shaped light that was very bright and shimmery (like it was flashing almost.)It was much larger than a star, like maybe 100X bigger than a dot of a star. I would look away and back again and it was still there. I woke up now at 5 a.m. and it is not there. No reply – just sharing what I saw. Doesn’t fit the description of a “shooting star” as it was stationary.UFOish? Now I am going out to look for meteors.

  15. Adam Southwell says:

    Hey Kevin,

    I’ve read through these posts, i realise the meteors will be available to watch from Australia, I live on the Gold Coast btw. But I’m after a time, EST time, would it be better the night of the 21st, Wednesday… or early morning, Thursday 22nd>
    Cheers mate
    Adam

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Adam,
      I’ve seen some observation results from Australia for last night and it looks like the early morning was best (17.00 – 1800 GMT), but no harm looking earlier. cheers.

  16. tigers says:

    so we went out and didnt see anything really disappointed

  17. Kim says:

    Hi, Kevin.
    I just wanted to thank you so very much for you time and effort. I’m a professional astrologer who’s very interested in astronomy – for obvious reasons – but I know far less about the actual skies than I do about their movements on paper, which bothers me. So Thank You, again – and please feel free to “Google” Kim Rogers-Gallagher and astrology.
    KRG

  18. Mike says:

    Very useful information, Kevin, thanks!

    Mike

  19. Rose says:

    I live in Alaska, Above the Arctic Circle. At what time do you think would be a good time to watch the skies?

  20. Jenn says:

    Almost midnight here. I’m looking forward to this!

  21. matt says:

    What about ohio

  22. mooncrazy says:

    Simi Valley, California is between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and this morning an hour or so before sunrise we saw just about three in an hour period. We are hoping for more on the 21st.

    Great site, thanks so much for posting.

  23. Observer says:

    Saw few bright meteors at Cronulla beach, Sydney, Australia today 9.30-11pm. Not a best location on the beach with a lot of lights behind and sea vapor in front. But still, a couple of really bright ones right above and one fireball hitting the horizon.

    Thanks for the article!

  24. Ben Fryer says:

    I would like to know at what time is the best to start looking, i see just three last night at around 10.45 if i could know the best time to start looking that would be good…… mail me please
    hell_risen@hotmail.co.uk

    and this webpage is very helpful, good on ya !!

  25. rollz says:

    Hi…

    I live in Beijing, China.
    Can I actually see it?
    When is it gonna be, anyway?
    Well, it would be a great experience…

    Thanks

  26. LiliKrist says:

    I live in Surabaya – Indonesia.
    Can I see the meteor shower with naked eyes there?
    Thank you…

  27. Shelle says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for posting.
    I am located in London, Ontario. I am wondering when would be the best time and where should I look to in order to see this Orionids? Is there anything I need to prepare to view it?

    Thanks!

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Shelle,
      Please see my reply to Tanya also, but I would add, it’s probably best to look when the radiant point in Orion is higher up in your sky. This means midnight to the early hours of the morning, for Northerly latitude locations like yours.
      However, look at any time over the next 5 days or so, when it’s clear and dark. Regarding preparations, just the few suggestions in the article above. Best of luck!

  28. Tanya says:

    When you say the peak is the 21st doesnt that mean after midnight of the 20th or the night of the 21st?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Tanya, After midnight on the 20th (ie early hours of the 21st) is often given as the peak. However latest predictions are for stronger than normal shower activity over the period 19th – 23rd, so it’s worth looking when it’s dark and clear with you.

  29. Laura says:

    Just a small question.

    I will be in Honduras, CA at the time of the meteor shower. Will it be visible from there?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Laura, Should be. And because of the latitude, you’ll have the advantage of the Orion radiant point being higher in the sky, than it is for more northerly locations. Best of luck!

  30. Onli says:

    I saw the single best comet/meteor i have ever seen last night. Around 00:12.
    A quick google search brought me here.
    It really was quite brilliant. Large, bright, with visible features like the wider shorter mushroom top shape blaze at the front of it as it burnt through the atmosphere, with an exceptionally long tail. It lasted for around 2-3 seconds, and i only didn’t get to see it finish as it dropped behind trees.
    Thanks for letting me know what it was :)

  31. Hana says:

    Hi there, I just googled meteor showers and stumbled across your site. I saw a meteor last night (I live in South Australia) – 12th Oct as well! It was fantastic to see, and yes, lasted WELL over a few seconds. I wasn’t looking out for it, just driving along a road around 8:30pm. Looked just like what the previous post said! Great stuff :)

  32. James Barnes says:

    I saw a meteor last night (October 12th 00:12 BST which would be October 11th 23:12 GMT)
    I was looking towards Jupiter roughly SW from my location of approx 53′ North and 2′ 7″ West.
    It was quite spectacular; large bright tail and it even broke up and lasted well over a second! Was this just a rouge space body or a prelude to the Orionids?

  33. Ross says:

    Hi Tim,

    I can see from your information that it is to early for any expected orionid activity at the moment, although my father saw some extremely bright meteors last night Sunday 11th at about 8.15pm. We live in England in the South Hertfordshire/North London border area, I noticed someone else reported similar sightings on the previous night Saturday 10th in Nottinghamshire. Just thought I would let you know.

  34. Tim says:

    hey Tim again……just wondering what time area are you comming from ….because say if you were in america it will mean the shower will be in a different time to melbourne’s

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Tim, Unlike some other meteor showers, the Orionids maximum does not usually occur at a single point in time… it’s over the period 20-22 October.
      Therefore, just look during that period, when it’s dark and clear at your location.
      HTH

  35. Kate says:

    Hi Kevin,
    I live in Rhode Island, and I was hoping to watch the meteor shower. I know the 21st is the best date to watch, but what is the best time? Should I watch the night of the 20th into the 21st or the night of the 21st into the 22nd? Thank you.

  36. Taegan Westmoreland says:

    I live in Nottinghamshire, England, and yesterday at about 10pm (10th Oct), we saw roughly 15 meteor-like lights in the sky. Would it be reasonable to assume that these balls of fire are early Orionid meteors? (They were travelling from roughly West to East)

  37. Angela Rapalyea says:

    Since you undoubtedly have a lot of students and young people watching and reading, perhaps you could monitor your spelling and punctuation:

    burn-up is wrong. Rock fragments burn up in the atmosphere; they do not burn-up.

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Angela, Thank you for pointing it out. I have corrected it and shall take more care in future. Kevin

      • Ross says:

        Really Angela??? WOW! Bravo Kevin for taking such a ridiculously unnecessary correction with such class.

      • Kim RG says:

        To Angela:
        This man – and many thanks to you, Kevin – has put his time, effort and expertise into helping all of us to enjoy a “sky-show.” Is it too much to ask that we’re all grateful and not quite so particular? I’m sure you’ve enjoyed his words as much as all of us – so how about a “thank you” instead of criticism?
        Hoping my spelling and punctuation are up to your standards, I’ll bow out now, to observe the Orionids that Kevin has helped me to find in the sky.
        Kim RG

  38. Tim says:

    hey Kevin,
    I live in meloburne , Victoria (Australia) and i live in a reasonably dark area. Would the fact that i live in the southern hemisphere effect my veiw of the shower?
    thanks Tim

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Tim,
      Should be fine from Australia (weather permitting). The radiant point in Orion will be visible, rising in the East during the night. Here’s part of the sky map for the night of 21st October, from Southern Australia. (click for larger version)
      Orion rising in East, 21 Oct, from Australia

  39. maureen says:

    Hey Great Column,
    I live on Cape Cod . When is the best time for

    us to view the Orionids?

    Thanks

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi maureen,

      The peak is expected 20-21 Oct and it’s favorable this year (because of the Moon). The most important thing is for the sky to be dark and clear at your location.

      So best of luck!

      • jill says:

        Well surely there will be a 5 hour time diff between NY and UK? So if we are all over here looking at Orion at midnight, wouldnt it take place around 7pm in the US?

        • Kevin Brown says:

          Hi Jill,
          No, the meteor shower is not a single point in time event. The constellation Orion will rise above your Eastern horizon at about your local midnight, just like it does with mine in UK.
          Therefore midnight onwards is probably the best time to watch for meteors, but don’t let that stop you looking earlier, if the sky is clear. Best of luck.

          • jill says:

            oh dear I think I have more cognitive problems than I thought hahaha, ok. I also live in the UK but seeing as my friend Gina is in NY, lets say she and I wanted to watch this meteor shower at the same time while on our cell phones to each other, if it was midnight here in Hereford UK, what time would it be in NY? It would be 5 hours earlier with her than me right? Am I not getting this? Please excuse me for seeming like an idiot, however I do get very confused these days, I think its called having a senior moment lol

  40. Brad says:

    Hi, i live in the UK, in Bath/Bristol region, was wondering what it would be like for me between the 19′th and 23′rd?

  41. Anahi says:

    Mr.Brown
    At this time I’m in New York.Do you think i have a chance to see the shower?And if I can,around what time?

  42. Kelly Thorstad says:

    We are going on vacation in October, we are considering Hawaii, Arizona, or Washington. Which if any would be preferable for viewing the Orionids?
    Peace and Love

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Kelly,

      I can’t decide your vacation destination, sorry. Meteor viewing is mainly about having a dark, clear sky and who knows if that will happen, for a particular location?
      Further South however, will mean that the Orion radiant point will be higher in the sky and that ‘may’ help.

      Best of luck and enjoy your vacation!

  43. Thomas says:

    Hi Kevin. At this time i’ll be in Denmark (Europe), do you think there would be a chance for us to see the shower? Visiting my uh.. date the 13th of October, and this would just be perfect. However it might be too early, i have no idea.

    Obviously it may not be 25 meteors/hour, but just a couple through the night?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Thomas, I think that will be too early for the Orionids.

      Instead, I suggest you look upwards between 19th and 23rd October, wherever you are on planet Earth.

      Best of luck!

  44. Ellen Shaub says:

    We live in Colorado. Our children would really be interested in seeing the shower.(Of course on a school day). Would we see the shower if we woke the kids up early on the 21st?

    • Kevin Brown says:

      Hi Ellen,

      It would need to be very early (well before dawn), so I would suggest looking in the evenings before and after the 21st, especially if it’s dark and clear.

      Precise timing for meteors is not predictable (the article mentions variations seen in recent years), so best of luck!

      Kevin

  45. Kevin Brown says:

    I’ve had this question by email, so I thought I should post it here for everyone’s benefit.

    =========================
    Hello Mr. Brown,

    Thanks so much for putting info. together on the upcoming Meteor shower. I
    was wondering if Orion is visible in Ontario, Canada in October. I can
    clearly see Orion for most of the winter months but am unsure of Ocotber.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,
    Suyin

    =======================
    Here’s my reply

    Hi Suyin,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    Orion should be visible low in the East at your local Midnight, wherever you are in the Northern hemisphere (if about latitude 51 degrees).

    However, meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, so do look for them above and elsewhere.

    Best of luck with your observing!
    Kevin

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