Meteor shower wows weekend stargazers
The wee hours of Sunday offered the best opportunity to see the celestial fireworks, but there was also an opportunity on Monday morning. The Orionids are one of two meteor showers created by Halley's Comet each year.
Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 08:38 AM
The Orionid meteor shower rained bits of the famed Halley's Comet on Earth this weekend to the delight of stargazers around the world.
The 2012 Orionid meteor shower peaked early on Oct. 21, when forecasters had predicted up to 25 meteors an hour for patient stargazers with clear skies well away from city lights. Based on accounts sent into SPACE.com, the meteor shower did not disappoint.
In Norway, photographer Tommy Eliassen captured a spectacular view of the Orionids and Earth's dazzling northern lights.
"An Orionid meteor streaking over the sky, the aurora borealis in the northern horizon and the Milky Way over my camp," Eliassen told SPACE.com in an email from Korgfjellet, Hemnes in Norway. "A very cold but perfect night to photograph the Orionid meteor shower." [Amazing Orionid Meteor Shower Photos of 2012]
In Clinton Township, Mich., observer Dale Mayotte said this year's Orionid meteor display was extra special for him since he finally managed to catch a meteor on camera.
"It only took me about 700 pictures to get this one beautiful meteor, but this is the first one I have ever captured and it happened on my 38th birthday for an EXCELLENT present to myself," Mayotte told SPACE.com in an email. "Sitting in the cold for 2.5 hours was well worth this result."
The Orionid meteor shower occur every October when the Earth passes through a stream of dust left over by Halley's Comet. They appear to radiate out of the well-known constellation Orion, which is why they are called the Orionids.
The meteors flare up in brilliant displays when they streak through Earth's atmosphere at about 65 kilometers per second (that's nearly 150,000 mph), according to NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams.
Adams hosted a live web chat of the Orionid meteor shower late Saturday and early Sunday from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where a camera beamed live views of the "shooting stars" display across the Internet.
Adams assured her web chat audience that there will be Orionid meteors visible in the night sky tonight and early Monday, just not as many as at the peak time between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time this morning.
The Orionids are one of two meteor showers created by Halley's Comet each year. The Earth passes through a second stream of the comet's debris in May, leading to the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
The next major meteor shower to light up the night sky will be the annual Leonid meteor shower in mid-November. It will peak on Nov. 17.
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Related space story on MNN.com: A viewer's guide to meteor showers [Photo gallery]
This story was originally written for SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. It is reprinted with permission here.