ORIONID METEORS ON THE MORNING OF OCT. 21
October 13, 2008
From the UNA Planetarium and Observatory
FLORENCE, Ala. — The University of North Alabama Planetarium and Observatory is notifying the public about the upcoming Orionid meteor shower Oct. 21. The Orionid meteors result when the earth passes through the debris of Comet Halley.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation they appear to come from. If you trace back the path of the comets, they all point back to a certain spot on the sky. The constellation where the spot is gives the meteor shower its name. If there are two showers coming from a constellation, then the nearest star is used instead.
One Monday, Oct. 6, the asteroid hit the earth’s atmosphere over Sudan. This object released 2 kilotons of energy and probably resulted in meteors hitting the ground. Not to worry about the Orionids. The particles making the meteors are less than an eighth of an inch and burn up completely.
From a dark location, you can normally see about two or three random meteors per hour. The Orionid meteor shower will produce about 20 meteors per hour, peaking at about midnight Oct 21. The phase of the moon will be third quarter, reducing the number of meteors you see. The meteors should show up throughout the period from Oct 20-22, so try watching a few days before and after.
No special equipment is needed to watch meteors, making them a good event for low-budget astronomers. Make sure you dress to stay warm and bring a deck chair that will allow you to look upward for extended periods of time. Having friends join you will make it fun. For the homebodies, you can try radio detections of meteors. The trail of a meteor will reflect radio signals from a distant radio station. If you tune your radio to a station you don’t normally get, normally about 600 miles away, the meteor trail will reflect the distant radio signal and allow you to pick the station up for a few seconds; this “ping” can be used to count meteors during the daytime!
This is a great class project for teachers because it can be done in the daytime and students can plot a graph of meteors per hour and determine the exact time we passed through the debris trail of a comet. It also makes a great science fair project.
For more information, contact Dr. Mel Blake, director of the UNA Planetarium and Observatory, at 256-765-4284 or email@example.com.