Orionids Meteor Shower 2012 Peak: Where and When to Watch
Shooting stars will be flying early in the morning, but it promises to be a show worth watching.
The offspring of Halley's comet are about to put on quite a show over the skies of Urbandale.
Earth passes through a stream of debris from Halley's beginning Oct. 15, which gives us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower, though you probably won't see much until a bit later.
The shower should be at its peak the night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at about midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that -- barring cloud cover -- you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.
What makes this shower so cool? First, c'mon -- it's a show of shooting stars.
Also, though, there's no question about where to look for this one. Meteor showers get their names from the constellations in the sky where they can be spotted. And what's easier to spot than Orion the Hunter?
The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twins, Leo the Lion and then, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see -- well, aside from the sun.
Something else special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.
Obviously, you'll have more luck catching the shooting stars if you're in a place not polluted by light.
And that's the problem with trying to catch meteor showers this close to downtown Minneapolis, University of Minnesota astrophysics professor Terry Jones told Patch this summer when giving us tips for seeing the Perseid meteor shower: unless you're really diligent and lucky, trekking up to Beard's Plaisance or down to Thomas Beach will be a real bust. Because Minneapolis is at the center of a gigantic blob of light polution (map!), and because the meteor shower will be visible in the northeast portion of the sky, anyone looking for the full Perseid experience has to head out of the Twin Cities to rural areas.
"You have to understand that people aren’t going to sit outside, staring at the same spot in the sky for an hour just to see a single shooting star," Jones said with a chuckle.