Sunday, October 2, 2022, sees the beginning of the bright Orionid meteor shower above Earth. The meteor shower will remain visible until Nov. 7 but will peak around Oct. 21.
The Orionids take their name from the fact they are at their brightest — the radiant point — with the most meteors visible in the direction of the constellation Orion the Hunter.
Though the Orionids may appear to come from this constellation this isn't their source. They are actually caused when the Earth passes through debris left by Comet 1P/Halley — also known as Halley's comet or Comet Halley.
The Orionids is one of the most spectacular meteor showers known for its brightness and for the speed of the meteors, space debris that enters Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 148,000 miles per hour or 41 miles per second (66 kilometers per second) according to NASA.
Fast meteors leave in their wake glowing trails composed of material they shed as they pass through the atmosphere that can last between seconds and minutes. These rapid meteors can also often become fireballs as they are vaporized in the atmosphere meaning the Orionids are marked by bright prolonged explosions.
The meteors are created when Comet Halley returns to the inner solar system and sheds ice and dust. Earth passes through this dust trail every year and the particles enter the atmosphere disintegrating and creating a natural light show. Comet Halley orbits the sun roughly once every 76 years with its last visible close passage in 1986. The comet will be back in the inner solar system to replenish the debris for the Orionids meteor shower in 2061.
According to the sky-watching website In-the-Sky.org from New York, the Orionids will appear at approximately 22:16 (EDT) each night and its radiant point will rise from the east with its highest point occurring at around 5 a.m.
This is when the most meteors will be visible as the Earth's rotation is turning the city to face the direction from which the meteors approach Earth. This increases the number of meteors that move vertically downwards producing short trails close to the radiant point. At the peak of the Orionids sky watchers in an ideal region with a clear, dark, and dry viewing area could see up to 15 meteors per hour. It is likely in actual conditions fewer meteors than this will be visible.
The meteor shower is best seen when light from the moon is minimal, meaning the best time to see it is during the new moon when its bright side is completely turned away from Earth. October's new moon will occur on Oct. 25 and to find out what moon phase you can expect to see on your chosen viewing night check out our moon phase today guide.
Give your eyes 30-45 minutes to adapt to the dark, and take in as much of the sky as possible by lying down flat on your back. Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, and the more sky you see, the better your chance is to spot one.
If you take a cool photo of the 2022 Orionid meteor shower let us know! You can send images and comments to email@example.com.
If you're interested in capturing a stunning photo of the Orionids our How to photograph meteors and meteor showers explores where, when and how to photograph these stunning displays. Our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can also help you make sure you are fully prepared and kitted out for your next meteor-watching adventure
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Robert Lea is a science journalist in the U.K. whose articles have been published in Physics World, New Scientist, Astronomy Magazine, All About Space, Newsweek and ZME Science. He also writes about science communication for Elsevier and the European Journal of Physics. Rob holds a bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the U.K.’s Open University. Follow him on Twitter @sciencef1rst.