Orionids Meteor Shower 2012: What You Need to Know

Shooting stars will be flying early in the morning in Winchester. The Orionids meteor shower promises to be a show worth watching.

The offspring of Halley's Comet are about to put on quite a show in the skies of Winchester.

Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet beginning today, which will give us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower—though you probably won't see much until a bit later.

You won't need a telescope to view this celestial event, so just head out to a dark spot. Any of Winchester's parks will do, or even your backyard.

If you're looking for a public viewing event, Dexter and Southfield Schools in Brookline will have a public telescope night on Tuesday, Oct. 16 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Local astronomer James Keating has seen the Orionids shower.

"The best place to watch is anywhere the sky is dark, but remember there are no guarantees that you will see any," Keating told Patch. "So one should always have a chair, blanket, etc. to enable one to sit back, look up and enjoy the night sky and maybe be lucky enough to see a meteor."

Keating, a retired Marblehead High School science teacher and the school's golf coach, said the most distinctive thing about the Orionids is they are associated with the dust trail left by Halley's comet.

"When you see a meteror they are streaks of light produced by tiny dust particles entering Earth's upper atmosphere. Because of their high velocities and the friction with the atmosphere they burn up and that is what we see.

"Also, if you projected back in a straight line from where the meteor emanates from, the constellation nearest to this area names the shower. Therefore the Orionids radiate from the constellation Orion."

The shower should be at its peak the night of Saturday, Oct. 20 until just before dawn on Sunday. This year, the moon will be setting at approximately 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 of all, 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 finally, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see—well, aside from the sun.

There's also something else that's 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.

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch. 

Do you have a special spot where you will be viewing the shower? Tell us in the comments below! If you snap a great photo of the shower, upload it to our community photo gallery.


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