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Utah Skies: the Orionid meteor shower peaks on October 21st

Tom Westre

The night sky is divided up into 88 constellations. The easiest constellation to recognize is Orion the Hunter. Orion is easy to see in the evening during the winter months. The major stars that make up Orion are bright and form the outline of a hunter including his belt and sword.

During October the constellation of Orion has another unique event to observe. The Orionid meteor show streams out of this constellation. This is one of the year’s major meteor showers.

The Orionids take place from October 2 to November 7. They peak in the morning of October 21st.

During a meteor shower the earth is passing through debris left from a comet. In the case of the

Orionids the earth is passing through material left by Halley’s Comet. Observers on the earth last saw Halley’s comet in 1986. It won’t return for 75 years.

On the evening of October 21st the earth is passing through the thickest part of the debris left by Halley’s Comet.

During the early morning hours of October 21st the observer with clear skies should be able to see at least 15-20 meteors per hour. The record in past years was 80 per hour.

As the earth moves into the tail debris of the comet the meteors appear to radiate out from Orion. As long as you can see Orion you will be able to see the meteors.

Orion will rise in the east on the evening of October 20 at 11 am and set in the west at 7 am on October 21st .

The darker your sky the more meteors you will see. Scan the whole sky to find the meteors as they streak across the sky. You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, just your eyes alone will do the job.

This year the moon will be almost full but don’t let this discourage you. Go out and enjoy the free show.