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Remembering Haley's Comet, By Way Of The Orion Meteor Shower.
Time Exposure Photo Of The 2011 Orion Meteor Shower
There are a number of sky events that can be observed with the naked eye, which can also be observed throughout the year. And because of the hustle and bustle that we all find ourselves caught up in from day to day, I wanted to share one of these last minute sky events with my readers before I loose all recollection of it. This astronomical event of mention will be occurring during the nights of October 20th, through the 22nd, and I apologize for the last minute reminder.
But during these nights, particularly during the early morning hours of October 21st, ground based observers will be able to view the Orionid Meteor Shower. And if you are somewhat of an Astronomy buff and night owl like I am, then you will not want to miss this event. The main reason for wanting to observe this particular meteor shower, is because it will give us a visual snapshot of remembering Haley's comet. And some of us may be mulling over in our heads right now-why would this particular sky event help me to remember this famous comet?
To simply answer that question, is that every meteor shower, whether it be the delta Quadrinids, Lyrids, or even the famous perseids, are associated with a particular comet. The Orionid meteor shower is one shower that is associated with Haley's comet. During the early morning hours where upwards of twenty-five to thirty meteors per hour can be seen.
The meteors that you will observe are actually passing through a debris trail. A debris trail that was left as the result of comet Haley; passing through the earth's orbit. And in the wee hours of the morning of October 21st and the 22nd respectively, this is exactly what will be happening, as you witness these so called shooting stars emanate from the darkness of space. Even though Haley's comet will not make another personal appearance until around the year 2061, here is an opportunity to get in on some of the action, until it returns once again to our night time skies.
The orionid meteoroids, will not be emanating from just any point in the night sky. But will be radiating outward from a direction in the southeastern sky just after midnight. This is the area of sky where you will find the constellation Orion the hunter. Hence the constellation that is associated with the Orionid meteors.
The rising of the constellation in the east southeast, usually earmarks the beginning of the winter season. And Orion also rises high in this part of the sky at around midnight or after, as I just touched upon. If you look upwards after midnight into the blackness of space, and into the wee hours of the morning, specifically between 2 to 5 A.M. Look upwards towards the southeast area of thesky and locate Orion, just look a bit over to the left of the constellation.
This point in the sky is called the radiant and where you will be able to see the majority of these meteors hitting the earths atmosphere at about 148'000 miles per second. Only the Lyrid meteor showers, streak through the night sky at a faster rate. In fact the lyrid meteor shower will be the next sky show, as far as meteor showers go, reaching their peak in late November.
Orion the hunter is a relatively easy constellation to pick out in the night time sky. Three fairly bright stars in a row, marking the belt of Orion identify its belt. And above and to the left of orion is a very bright blue-white super giant star, called Rigel. From Rigel go in a downward direction and below the belt of the hunter.
Here you will come across a fairly bright reddish star, that twinkles ever so slightly, just as Rigel does. This is the super giant red star called Betelegeuse. It's easy to remember this star just by saying Beetle Juice a few times in a row. Catchy isn't it? Once you have located the constellation which is also near my favorite constellation, Taurus the bull, you will just have to sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
During the early morning hours of October 21st, the planets Venus and Mars will also visible to the naked eye near the constellation Orion, rising slowly in the eastern sky and following the imaginary line, that all of the other planets do, called the Ecliptic.
A dark spot in your back yard, or at a park, or beach; will further make observing this astronomical event all that more enjoyable. I am not a weather forecaster, but have been told by a local observatory near me, that the skies for viewing will be clear. The fairly new crescent moon will be setting just after midnight. So with no moon to spoil this years Orionid meteor shower, the night skies will be that much more darker. And also excellent for observing fainter meteors, that you may otherwise have missed in a sky that is often washed out by a full moon, or nearby city lights.
If you're not such an early riser and have a difficult time getting up during the early hours, try to think of it as getting in on a piece of Haley's comet. This may make it all the more worthwhile in helping you get out to watch such an event and give you that extra bit of enthusiasm that may be difficult for some of us to find when it comes to sky gazing.
Most of of us here on earth may have never viewed Haley's comet during its last visit which last occurred in 1986. And as much as I hate to admit this, many of us may never be able to view Haley's comet in our night skies ever again. Given the fact that it passes through our neighborhood every eighty-six years or so. Most of us, including myself will definitely not be around to witness this particular comet again.
I will be 103 years old when Haley's comet enters our solar system once again. Unless I inherit those good genes from my fathers side of the family, where my grandmother lived to the ripe old age of 103. I then and only then, may get an opportunity to see Haley's comet in all of its glory, if I inherit some of grandma's longevity.
So lets say that you do get a chance to get outside this weekend during the early morning hours to view the 2012 Orionid meteors, you will surely be able to tell friends and family that you were able to witness a little piece of history. This is one shooting star event, that your wishes may come true upon-hey, you never know, so enjoy this years show!