A wash of ice and rock from Halley’s comet provides the medium for this month’s Orionid meteor shower.
A sweep of debris from the celebrated Halley’s Comet will prick the night sky with fleeting lights this month as the Orionid meteor shower takes the celestial stage.
While the Orionid shower runs generally from early October to early November, it will peak this year on Monday and Tuesday with the best viewing times occurring in the dark hours before dawn.
A waning crescent moon will crash the show with some lunar light interruption, but the Orionids are known for leaving glowing trails that can last for several seconds to minutes, according to NASA.
During the peak of the shower, 10 to 20 Orionids per hour should be visible.
“The meteors in this shower are on the faint side, but they make up for that; maybe half of the Orionid meteors leave persistent trains, or ionized gas trails that last for a few seconds after the meteor itself has gone,” EarthSky editor in chief Deborah Byrd wrote in her column.
The Orionids are the only well-recognized major shower that happens twice a year. In May, the Earth again runs through the detritus of Halley’s Comet, creating the Eta Aquariid shower.
Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705 but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. The comet returns about every 75 years and was last seen from Earth in 1986. It won’t come again until 2061.
The Orionids are named for the celestial hunter Orion, which is easy to spot in the night sky by its bright belt of three aligned stars. Orion is the namesake because the meteors appear to radiate from north of Betelgeuse, one of the constellation’s most well-known stars.
You don’t have to stare at Orion to see a meteor; they will be visible in all parts of the sky.
Although the moon may be slightly in the way during the peak of the shower, the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday in South Florida is so far offering mostly clear skies with scattered rain chances.
AccuWeather is forecasting a “good” chance of seeing the Orionids for most of the Peninsula.
But North Florida has a slightly more iffy forecast. Although rain chances are low Sunday night into Monday morning, they pick up as a cool front approaches the area with mostly to partly- cloudy overnight skies.
The Panhandle, which may be dealing with tropical rainfall this weekend from an area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico, has only a 10 percent chance of rain Sunday night into Monday, but that picks up to 30 percent during the day through Tuesday. AccuWeather is giving “poor” to “fair” chances for Panhandle viewing.
Byrd said Halley’s Comet is “arguable the most famous of all comets.”
“Particles shed by the comet slam into our upper atmosphere, where they vaporize at some 60 miles above Earth’s surface,” she said. “Even one meteor can be a thrill.”
Florida’s coastal light pollution reduces the chances of seeing a metor, but a darkened beach is an option if a drive toward the Everglades isn’t.
“Bring along a blanket or lawn chair and lie back comfortably while gazing upward,” Byrd said.
CHECK the forecast for the Orionid meteor shower here.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.