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Orionids Meteor Shower October 2017

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by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
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The Orionids is the best meteor shower of October
The meteor show to see in October is the Orionids with an expected 20 meteors per hour originated from Halley's Comet. With the moon setting early on the peak days of October 21 to 22, it should be perfect conditions for a shooting star watching weekend.

Shooting star photo courtesy of NASA
Shooting star photo courtesy of NASA

About the Orionids

Halley's Comet whisks around the sun every 74-79 years leaving a trail of dust and debris in its wake. Then, of course, along comes the Earth hurtling around the sun at 100,000 km/h and runs into those specs of dust.

Photo of Halley's Comet courtesy of W. Liller @ NASA
Photo of Halley's Comet courtesy of W. Liller @ NASA

The raw speed that this collision occurs makes the dust glow bright and cause a shooting star as it burns up in our atmosphere. If you are really lucky, then you might see an extra bright meteor which is caused by something as large as a grain of sand, but with the Orionids this is very rare.

Most names of meteor showers come from their radiant point, that is, the place in the sky where they shooting stars appear to originate from. For the Orionids, it is the constellation Orion. However looking at the constellation is not the best idea because, as said, the shooting stars fly off in all directions from that point. However, it can be helpful when the radiant point is close to the horizon to know where it is.

The constellation Orion courtesy of Till Credner at Wikimedia
The constellation Orion courtesy of Till Credner at Wikimedia

You can find Orion by using a star map app on your phone or tablet. Recently I have been using Sky Map but I have also been playing around with SkyTracker VR which gives you a 3D virtual reality map of the night sky. However, pretty much all astronomy apps provide the same function.

Watching a Meteor Shower

Most shooting stars are fairly faint and the Orionids are typical meteors, so you want to get away from urban light pollution. Places to head include to beaches, bushland areas, or heading up a mountain. Sometimes you can spot the brighter shooting stars in the suburbs.

So you can find a dark spot and make yourself comfortable. It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness, While you can just stand and look at the sky, it is actually much better for your neck to sit or even lie down.

Generally speaking, the best time to look for shooting stars is in the hours before dawn, so it is better to get up early than stay up late, however, you can try anytime between midnight to dawn.

Specific Times and Locations

The following information is for the peak viewing night of October 21 to 22. The moon will have set in the early evening, so it is optimal viewing conditions for shooting stars.

In Brisbane, the best time will be around 4 am, when the shooting stars should be visible across the whole sky. Remember though, dawn is at 5 am. If you want to watch the meteor shower earlier, it should be visible from about 11 pm, but you want to focus your gaze on the north-eastern horizon.

The time to view the meteor shower is a little later in Sydney, starting at 1 am with shooting stars on the horizon and by 3 am they should be across the whole sky. Dawn will be at 6 am.

Melbourne is similar to Sydney, though with the shootings stars a little closer to the horizon. However, after 4 am, they should be visible everywhere in the sky. Dawn will be at 6:30 am.

For Adelaide it is similar. Start looking at the north-eastern horizon from 1:30 am but by 3 am you can look anywhere in the sky. The peak will be around 5:30 am but dawn will follow soon at 6:30 am.

In Perth , you can start looking at around midnight on the north-eastern horizon, but by 2 am you might as well look everywhere. Though, of course, the best time will once again be just before dawn which will occur at 5:30 am.

Photographing the Orionids

So you might want to have a go at photographing the Orionids Meteor Shower. Given that shooting stars are both faint and fast, it isn't always easy, but if you have a DLSR or mirrorless camera there is no reason not to try.

First of all, use the fastest lens that you have. Speed is measured in f-stops and the lower the number the faster the lens. A standard lens has a lowest f value of f/3.5. With this, it is possible to capture a shooting star but it is recommended that you use a f/2.5 or f/2 lens.

Set your camera up on a tripod and configure it to take photos with exposures of about 10 to 25 seconds. The longer the exposure the more of the star field will be captured. Use your camera to take a continuous stream of photos. Then of course later you will have the joy of looking through all the photos to see if one captured a shooting star.

One thing to remember is that you should turn off your camera's screen while it is taking photos so that its light won't affect anyone's night vision. Of course, if you want to play around with different settings keep your camera away from other people.
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Why? Best meteor shower in October without that pesky moon to obscure the shooting stars
When: Meteor showers are best viewed in the hours before the dawn
Where: In the night sky above you
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great article. What time and in which direction to look in the sky if located in Canberra pls? Thx
by Nicole J (score: 1|61) 1285 days ago
Thanks Roy, this is quality information, well-written. I'll be checking out this meteor shower for sure :-) Jill
by synch (score: 0|4) 1272 days ago
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