Be sure to look up tonight.
If the 2020s been anything positive, it’s been an astrological spectacle – with a number of space-bound delights lighting up our skies, from blue, pink and bright-glowing moons, to meteor showers galore. And the show’s not over yet, as the Orionids have been making their annual appearance throughout this month, which will peak in the early morning of Thursday, 22 October.
Forming each time Halley’s Comet returns to the inner solar system, its nucleus sheds ice and rocky dust into space – which then turns into the Orionids and the Eta Aquarids which we saw earlier this year in May. As for Halley’s Comet itself, we’re not set to catch a glimpse until 2061 – with the comet taking a whopping 76 years to orbit the sun, making it a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence when it does come around.
So, how come we can see the meteors? Well, the meteors are formed from leftover debris which creates their own ‘dusty trails’, and when the Earth passes through them in orbit every year, we’re left with the sights of bright, colourful streaks in the sky.
Having begun on 2 October, the Orionid meteor shower will continue until November 7, where NASA, as usual, advises that the best viewing conditions are “well away from city or street lights”.
“Lie flat on your back with your feet facing southeast if you are in the Northern Hemisphere or northeast if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible.” NASA advises. “In less than 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”
However, if you, like me, need a little more instruction than just looking up at the night sky and wait for your eyes to adjust, then you’re in luck because finding the Orionids will be as easy as finding the ‘Saucepan’—you know, the three stars in a line that form Orion’s belt? The meteors will be shooting up through the belt having come from Betelgeuse, the big orange star that is the hunter’s shoulder.
Did you know that many Australian Indigenous cultures also see the constellation of Orion as a hunter?
The further north you are, the more meteors you will see with up to eighteen an hour expected to fly across Brisbane’s skies. Melbourne, on the other hand, will be treated to fourteen meteors on average every hour. Adelaide will likely see up to sixteen meteors per hour.