Orionids meteor shower peaks on October 21, 2013

The annual Orionids meteor shower peaks this year on October 21st but unfortunately a 93% lit waning gibbous Moon will significantly interfere and reduce the number of meteors visible. Generally regarded as a strong shower, the Orionids or Orionid meteor shower is active between October 2nd and November 7th although most activity is on the peak date or a few days before or after it. In the past, rates of up to 70 per hour have been observed but normally the shower is not so active; a figure between 20 and 25 is more the norm at the moment.

Parent Comet

The Orionids parent comet is the most famous of all, Halley's Comet (1P/Halley). There are two annual meteor showers associated with Halley's Comet, the Eta Aquariids shower that occurs in May and the then the Orionids. Of the two the Orionids is by far the more prolific.

Although Halley is now in the outer solar system and will not return close to Earth until 2061, it's worth remembering that Orionid meteors result from particles leftover from the comet. Every observed Orionid is actually a small part of the famous comet streaking through and subsequently burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Nucleus of Halley's Comet (Halley Multicolor Camera Team, Giotto Project, ESA)

Radiant

The radiant of the Orionids is located in the north-eastern part of the constellation Orion, not far from the Gemini border. Since Orion straddles the celestial equator, the Orionids are one of the few annual showers that are well placed for observation from almost anywhere on Earth, except the polar regions.

Orionids Radiant and Star Chart

Orionids Radiant and Star Chart - pdf format

What to expect in 2013?

The major problem for 2013 is the Moon, it's almost full and will badly interfere. However, the shower is usually reliable with some bright meteors. They are fast moving and hit the atmosphere at very high speeds of 235,000 km/hour (145,000 miles/hour). At this velocity they will streak through the sky.

As with all annual meteors showers, it's best not to look directly at the radiant itself, as meteors can appear many degrees from it. A good idea this year is to try and position yourself in such a way that the Moon is out of view - for example behind a building or some trees - and then look towards the correct region of sky. This will give yourself the best chance of catching a few Orionids as they zoom by!

Orionids Data Table 2013

Meteor shower nameOrionids
Meteor shower abbreviationORI
Radiant constellationOrion
ActivityOctober 2nd -> November 7th
Peak DateOctober 21st
RA (J2000)6hr 20m
Dec (J2000)+16d
Speed (km/s)66
ZHR 20 to 25 (can vary between 20 and 70)
RatingBright
Parent body1P/Halley
NotesMost prolific meteor shower associated with Halley's Comet

Comet 1P/Halley Data Table (at epoch February 17th, 1994)

Name1P/Halley
TypeComet
ClassificationHalley-type comet (NEO)
DiscovererPrehistoric, Edmond Halley first recognised the periodicity
Discovery datePrehistoric
Aphelion distance (AU) 35.0823
Perihelion distance (AU)0.58598
Semi-major axis (AU) 17.8341
Eccentricity 0.96714
Orbital period (years) 75.3175
Inclination (degrees) 162.263
Longitude of ascending node (degrees)58.4201
Last perihelion February 9th, 1986
Next perihelion July 28th, 2061
NotesHalley's comet, the most famous of all comets

Sky Highlights - February 2016

Comets
Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) now fading as it recedes from Earth. Currently moving through the far northern constellations. Remains visible with binoculars and small telescopes.

Comet PanSTARRS (C/2013 X1) a possible naked eye comet later this year now visible with binoculars in the evening sky

Mercury apparition
Mercury reaches greatest elongation west on February 7, 2016

The Planets
This Month's Guide

Algol Minima
Algol eclipse dates and times for February 2016

Northern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Uranus (mag. +5.9)
East:- Jupiter (mag. -2.5)
Midnight
South:- Jupiter
Morning
West:- Jupiter
South:- Mars (mag. +0.6), Saturn (mag. +0.6)
Southeast:- Venus (mag. -3.9), Mercury (mag. -0.1 first part of month)

Southern Hemisphere
Evening
West:- Uranus
East:- Jupiter
Midnight
North:- Jupiter
East:- Mars, Saturn
Morning
Northwest:- Jupiter
Northeast:- Mars, Saturn
East:- Venus, Mercury

Deep Sky
Naked Eye:-
Messier 45 - M45 - The Pleiades (Open Cluster)
Caldwell 41 - C41 - The Hyades - Open Cluster
Messier 42 - M42 - The Great Orion Nebula (Emission/Reflection)
Melotte 111 - Mel 111 - The Coma Star Cluster (Open Cluster)
Messier 44 - M44 - The Praesepe (Open Cluster)

Binoculars / Small Scopes:-
Messier 35 – M35 - Open Cluster
Messier 41 - M41 - Open Cluster
Messier 46 - M46 - Open Cluster
Messier 47 - M47 - Open Cluster

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