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See the Orionid meteor shower this weekend

Posted: 17 October 2012

Orionid Radiant The Orionids reach an optimum peak of 25 meteors per hour over 20-22 October. AN graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.

The annual Orionid meteor shower peaks over several nights close to October 20-22, which is favourable for this coming weekend. The shower is a result of debris shed by Halley's comet in its 75 year journey around the Sun, forming a stream of small particles (meteoroids) that the Earth ploughs through, the meteoroids burning up in the atmosphere. The stream is clumpy as a result of debris being shed from the comet at different times and occasionally the Earth encounters a more concentrated section, causing enhanced rates, as was the case in 2006. Orionids are swift moving, hitting the atmosphere at 60 kilometres per second and bright events around mag. +1 or brighter are not uncommon, many leaving persisting ionisation trails that never fail to thrill the lucky observer!

The good news is that the Moon will be well out of the way this year, setting mid to late evening just as the radiant, a few degrees north-east of Betelgeuse, is rising across the other side of the sky. Although not in the same spectacular class as the Perseids or Geminids, the Orionids are well worth making the effort to observe with observed rates of 10-12 meteors per hour under good conditions. However it does mean an early morning observing stint in the hopefully clear but cold air, the radiant rising around 9pm but not reaching a reasonable altitude until around midnight. By 3am the radiant is more than 40 degrees above the southern horizon and then the best rates should be seen.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!


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