Many people are hoping to catch a glimpse of the Orionid meteor shower through their windows as it peaks between October 21 and 22.
The second meteor shower this month occurs when Earth passes through debris left behind by Halley’s Comet – arguably the most famous comet. While this shower is not as noticeable as the others, you can maximize your chances by going to dark, rural places during the peak.
Visible in both hemispheres, the best time to shower in the UK is just before dawn. When you look skyward, the aptly named Orionid meteors appear to be coming from the direction of the constellation Orion, as they are moving at 41 miles per second.
If you’re lucky with the moon and cloud placement, you could catch up to 20 meteors per hour. In addition, the Orionid shower is renowned for its radiant and long-lasting streaks that remain after a meteor has passed.
But even if you miss the Orionids, there are plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to see the sky full of streaks of light.
Here, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on when, where, and how you can see the other meteor showers of 2021.
What exactly is a meteor shower?
A meteor shower occurs when the Earth passes through the flow of debris occupying the orbit of a comet or, in simpler terms, when a number of meteors cross the sky at roughly the same point.
Meteors are sometimes referred to as shooting stars, although they actually have nothing to do with stars.
The prospect makes the meteor showers appear to emanate from a single point in the sky known as a radiant shower. The typical meteor results from a particle – the size of a grain of sand – vaporizing in Earth’s atmosphere as it enters at 134,000 mph.
Anything larger than a grape will produce a fireball, which is often accompanied by a lingering afterglow known as a meteor train. This is a column of ionized gas that slowly fades away as it loses energy.
Meteor, meteoroid or meteorite?
A meteor is a meteoroid – or a particle detached from an asteroid or comet orbiting the Sun – that burns as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, creating a “shooting star”.
Meteorites that reach the Earth’s surface without decaying are called meteorites.
Meteors are mostly lumps of comet dust and ice no larger than a grain of rice. Meteorites are mostly shattered rocks from asteroids in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and weigh up to 60 tons.
They can be “stony,” made up of minerals rich in silicon and oxygen, “iron,” made up mostly of iron and nickel, or “stony iron,” a combination of the two.
Scientists believe that around 1,000 to over 10,000 tonnes of material from meteors fall to Earth each day, but these are mostly dust-like grains, according to NASA, and pose no threat to the Earth. Earth.
There are only two recorded incidents of an injury caused by a meteorite. One such case saw a woman bruised by a meteorite, weighing eight pounds, after she fell from her roof in 1954.
Other meteor shower dates for 2021
Leonid meteor shower
The November meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through comet Tempel-Tuttle, which revolves around the Sun every 33 years. When that happens, thousands of shooting stars are visible from our planet, but unfortunately that won’t be the case this year, as the next awe-inspiring spectacle is not expected until 2034.
In 2021, this downpour will peak on November 17 and 18, when you can spot around 10 to 20 meteors per hour. However, that can be a bit optimistic, as meteors can fall below the horizon across the UK.
Geminid meteor shower
The Geminid meteor shower occurs from December 4 to 17 and will peak around December 13 and 14, 2021. They originate from the constellation Gemini, hence its name.
The shower occurs when the orbit of the Geminids brings the asteroid 3200 Phaethon closer to the Sun and its surface material fractures and detaches. When Earth passes through this debris every mid-December, it burns in our atmosphere. This creates the meteors which are visible in our sky.
The good news for space enthusiasts across the UK is that the rain favors northern hemisphere watchers, meaning you risk catching up to 120 meteors per hour during its peak. Their color also varies, making it one of the nicest showers on the calendar.