Shooting stars courtesy of Halley’s Comet
An Orionid streaks through the skies over Summit County, Colorado. Photo by Daniel McVey. Click on the image to see more of McVey’s astrophotography.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — After its 1986 appearance, many of us will probably not have an other chance to see Halley’s Comet during its next rendezvous with Earth in 2061, but we can enjoy meteors generated by remnant pieces of the comet during the Orionid shower, set to peak Saturday night.
For the best view, astronomers say to generally look eastward after sunset, toward the Orion constellation, which hangs low in the sky this time of year. The shower often generates 20 to 25 meteors per hour, and sometimes up to 50 or 60. You can also watch live online at this NASA website.
Even though Halley’s Comet is long gone, the sun continues to melt the comet little by little, freeing up rock particles that stay on the comet’s trajectory. When that faint trail of debris brushes through the Earth’s atmosphere every October, we get a show of shooting stars.
On the other side of the celestial calendar, Halley’s Comet also generates the Eta Aquarid meteor shower each April and May.
According to NASA, the Orionids move very fast, at a speed of 147,300 miles per hour, so they don’t last very long, generally burning up in the upper atmosphere. But every now and then, a larger chunk of ice and rock can result in a spectacular fireball with a lingering contrail.
After this weekend, there are two more chances to see shooting stars. The Leonids will peak Nov. 17 under an evening crescent moon, and the Geminids on Dec. 13 under a dark-sky new moon, according to Stardate.org.
Filed under: Colorado, Summit County Colorado | Tagged: astronomy, Comet Halley, Meteor shower, meteors, Orionid meteor showers, Orionids 2012, shooting stars | Leave a Comment »