In the early hours of Wednesday, October 21, 2020, planet Earth will be submerged in a path of dust and debris left inside the Solar System of the most famous comet of them all.
Did you see Halley’s Comet when it last appeared on the Solar System in 1986? Also known as 1P / Halley, next due to returning to our neighborhood in 40 years.
It counts as the only comet facing twice in a person’s entire life. Unlike Comet NEOWISE, which will not return for 7,000 years.
It is also responsible for two annual meteor shower, one of the tops in the coming weeks – the Orionid meteor shower.
Here’s everything you need to know about when to look, where to look and what to see if you go out looking for shooting stars this week.
What is the Orionid meteor shower?
It is an annual meteor shower of moderate force occurring between October 2 and November 7 in 2020. Expect between 10-20 “shooting stars” at the top of the night, traveling at 41 miles / 67km per second. That’s very fast even though Orionids tend to have long, visible trains—Silence in the sky seen for a second or more.
When is the Orionid meteor shower?
The peak – when most activity is expected – will take place as early as Wednesday, October 21, 2020. At that point the young Moon is 23% lit, so only one month, so there should not be much problem The key time to watch is a few hours before dawn according to EarthSky.
You can, of course, take your chances and look good before midnight — and you can see some shooting stars — but the main activity will take place when the sky is darkest.
Why is it called the Orionid meteor shower?
Although they were caused by Halley’s Comet, the Orionids got their name from their apparent origin – their radiant point. It was inside the Orion constellation, rising to the east at midnight.
More specifically, it is close to the Betelgeuse, but “star shooting” can appear anywhere in the night sky.
Where is Halley’s Comet?
You won’t see Halley’s Comet until the year 2061 so don’t bother looking – it’s way, way, too vague – but know that its current position is inside the constellation of Hydra, the water snake. It is a confusing constellation to show its totality, but if you look at the Orion constellation while you wait for the shooting of the stars, look your eye to the east and the Hydra rises.
So even though Halley’s Comet is not close to us at present – in fact, outside of Neptune’s orbit – it hides there in the same field of view as the radiant point of the Orionids.
Who is Edmond Halley?
An English astronomer born in 1656, Edmond Halley used Isaac Newton’s theories of gravity and planetary motion to calculate the orbits of comets. He predicted that comets would not only make a trip through the Solar System, but could make many trips back.
Based on the reports of a bright comet seen in the night sky in 1532, 1607 and 1682 he predicted that it was the same comet, and it would return to the internal Solar System in 1758.
He died right, and in more ways than one – he died in 1742 before seeing his work pay off.
What other meteor showers has caused Halley’s Comet?
The debris stream from Halley’s Comet caused the Orionids meteor shower but it also caused the Eta Aquarids meteor shower in May. That is because it puts meteoroids in the Earth’s orbital path both in, and out, of the Solar System. Pass the Halley’s Comet roadway around the Sun twice per year.
The Eta Aquarids meteor shower – known for its fast moving meteorites and numbers 10-20 per hour at its peak – will take place between April 19 and May 28, 2021, and peak on the night of May 5, 2021.
When is the next meteor shower?
The next major meteor shower will be the Leonids, which will land at the very end of November 17, 2020 in the dark, cloudless sky. Expect approximately 15 fast-moving “shooting stars” per hour for the Leonids meteor shower by 2020.
What needs to be prepared, however, is the Geminid meteor shower, the best of the year, earlier than December 14, 2020 and will release up to 120 “shooting stars” per hour — and just hours before a significant total solar eclipse. .
You want clear sky and wide eyes.