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This picture shows part of the sky at night. The constellation Orion is on the right. The place where meteors that are part of the Orionid meteor shower seem to shoot out from is on the left. That spot is called the "radiant" of the meteor shower.
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Original Windows to the Universe artwork by Randy Russell.

Orionid Meteor Shower

Meteor showers are times when you can see a lot of meteors in one night. There are several different meteor showers. Each meteor shower happens at the same time every year. There is a meteor shower in October every year. That one is called the Orionid meteor shower.

The best night to see Orionid meteors is usually October 21st. That night is called the "peak" of the meteor shower. You can usually see meteors from this shower for a few days before and after the peak night.

During a meteor shower, it looks like all of the meteors shoot outward from one place in the sky. That place is called the "radiant" of the meteor shower. Each shower has a different radiant. The radiant for the Orionid shower is in the constellation Orion. That is why this shower is called the Orionid meteor shower.

If you want to see Orionid meteors, go outside at night around October 21st. You can see more meteors if you can watch from someplace very dark, away from street lights. If you are lucky, you might see as many as 20 meteors in an hour!

Orion does not rise in late October until about 11 PM. The best time to see Orionids is late at night. However, you can still see some meteors earlier in the night. Look towards the southeast to find Orion (if you live north of the equator). If you live south of the equator, look towards the northeast.

Look at these sky maps to help you find Orion if you live in the United States. The 2 AM maps for October 15th should work pretty well. If you live somewhere other than in the USA, you might want to use an interactive sky map program to help you find Orion. See the link at the bottom of this page to an interactive sky map made by "Sky & Telescope" magazine. Even if you can't find Orion, you can still see Orionid meteors. Just look up at the night sky in the southeast or northeast, depending on where in the world you live.

Can you guess where these meteors come from? They are actually dust from a comet! When a comet gets near the Sun and heats up, its ices melt and dust trapped in the ice escapes into space. The dust spreads out over the comet's orbit. When Earth crosses the comet's orbit, we run into the dust - and see a meteor shower!

The dust that makes Orionid meteors is from a very famous comet. Have you ever heard of Halley's Comet? Orionid meteors come from Halley's Comet.

Last modified September 13, 2007 by Randy Russell.

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