Shop Windows to the Universe

Our Glaciers: Then and Now activity kit helps you see the changes taking place in glaciers around the world. See all our activity kits and classroom activities.
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.
Click on image for full size
Original Windows to the Universe artwork by Randy Russell.

Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid meteor shower happens every year in October. Meteor showers are times when you can see many meteors or "shooting stars" in one night. There are several meteor showers each year. Most meteor showers can be seen for several nights. Usually, there is one night when you can see the most meteors. That night is called the "peak" of the meteor shower. The peak of the Orionid shower is around October 21st.

During a meteor shower, it looks like all of the meteors shoot outward from one place in the sky. That point in the sky 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 "Orionids".

If you want to see Orionid meteors, go outside at night on October 21st or one of the nights just before or after that date. 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 into the sky in late October until about 11 PM. The best time to see Orionids is late at night. However, it is still possible to see some meteors earlier in the night. Look towards the southeast to find Orion if you live in the northern hemisphere; or look towards the northeast if you live south of the equator.

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.

Most of the Orionid meteoroids are very, very small - about the size of a grain of sand! However, they are moving very, very fast - around 66 km/s (about 148,000 mph)! When they hit Earth's atmosphere, they burn up and glow; the glowing trails they leave behind for a second or two are what we see as meteors.

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.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

Windows to the Universe Community



You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Meteor Showers

A meteor shower is an astronomical event during which many meteors can be seen in a short period of time. Most meteor showers have a peak activity period that lasts between several hours and a couple of...more

When a Comet comes close to the Sun

When comets are kicked out of the Oort Cloud, they begin a passage into the solar system, spinning and tumbling as they come. The trajectory which they acquire can be hyperbolic, parabolic, or elliptic...more

Elliptical Orbits

You may think that most objects in space that orbit something else move in circles, but that isn't the case. Although some objects follow circular orbits, most orbits are shaped more like "stretched...more

Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid meteor shower happens every year in October. Meteor showers are times when you can see many meteors or "shooting stars" in one night. There are several meteor showers each year. Most meteor...more

Leonid Meteor Shower

The Leonid meteor shower is one of several major meteor showers that occur on roughly the same date each year. The Leonids typically "peak" (are at their greatest level of activity) in mid to late November....more


Meteors are streaks of light, usually lasting just a few seconds, which people occasionally see in the night sky. They are sometimes called "shooting stars" or "falling stars", though they are not stars...more

Geminid Meteor Shower

The Geminid meteor shower happens every year in December. Meteor showers are times when you can see many meteors or "shooting stars" in one night. There are several meteor showers each year. Most meteor...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA