Ever since I was a girl I have this amazement about the sky and the stars. I have assorted books about the stars, space, planets and anything all about astronomy and its constellations. Just recently October 8 “Draconids” meteor shower are best seen at Asia zone. But that time it was raining for me not to be able to see the sky and admire those meteor showers. The meteors all appear to “rain” into the sky from Draco, the dragon, which is in the north. Some experts expect an unusually good display, although the U.S. is not well placed for the show.
Now this coming October 21 Orionids will be showing its display. Orionid meteors stream from what appears to be the elbow of Orion the Hunter in the Orion constellation. The Orionids are truly a universal entertainment, since the shower’s radiant point is close to the celestial equator. That means in both the northern and southern hemispheres astronomers (amateur and otherwise) can sit back and enjoy the show.
|Name||Date of Peak||Moon|
|Quadrantids||night of January 3||New|
|Lyrids||night of April 21||Rises after midnight|
|Eta Aquarids||night of May 5||Sets in early evening|
|Perseids||night of August 12||Full|
|Draconids||night of October 8||Nearly full|
|Orionids||night of October 21||Rises after midnight|
|Leonids||night of November 17||Rises around midnight|
|Geminids||night of December 13||Just past full|
NOTES actual shower times can vary. Bright moonlight makes it difficult to see all but the brightest meteors.
What are meteor showers?
An increase in the number of meteors at a particular time of year is called a meteor shower.
Comets shed the debris that becomes most meteor showers. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet’s orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we will see a meteor shower. Depending on where Earth and the stream meet, meteors appear to fall from a particular place in the sky, maybe within the neighborhood of a constellation.
Meteor showers are named by the constellation from which meteors appear to fall, a spot in the sky astronomers call the radiant. For instance, the radiant for the Leonid meteor shower is located in the constellation Leo. The Perseid meteor shower is so named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.
What are shooting stars?
“Shooting stars” and “falling stars” are both names that people have used for many hundreds of years to describe meteors — intense streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids crashing and burning high in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Traveling at thousands of miles an hour, meteoroids quickly ignite in searing friction of the atmosphere, 30 to 80 miles above the ground. Almost all are destroyed in this process; the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.
When a meteor appears, it seems to “shoot” quickly across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star. If you’re lucky enough to spot a meteorite (a meteor that makes it all the way to the ground), and see where it hits, it’s easy to think you just saw a star “fall.”
How can I best view a meteor shower?
If you live near a brightly lit city, drive away from the glow of city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate.
For example, drive north to view the Leonids. Driving south may lead you to darker skies, but the glow will dominate the northern horizon, where Leo rises. Perseid meteors will appear to “rain” into the atmosphere from the constellation Perseus, which rises in the northeast around 11 p.m. in mid-August.
After you’ve escaped the city glow, find a dark, secluded spot where oncoming car headlights will not periodically ruin your sensitive night vision. Look for state or city parks or other safe, dark sites.
Once you have settled at your observing spot, lie back or position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will instantly grab your attention as they streak by.
How do I know the sky is dark enough to see meteors?
If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have “dark adapted,” and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you will see plenty of meteors.
What should I pack for meteor watching?
Treat meteor watching like you would the 4th of July fireworks. Pack comfortable chairs, bug spray, food and drinks, blankets, plus a red-filtered flashlight for reading maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Your eyes will do just fine.
For photographing the annual event, a digital camera mounted on a tripod helps to steady the images that swiftly move across the sky. A quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of Orionid “prime-time” will also guarantee that you’ll catch something! Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.