Orionids Meteor Shower 2012 Peak: When to Watch in Elkridge
Shooting stars will be flying early in the morning, but it promises to be a show worth watching.
The offspring of Halley's comet are about to put on quite a show over the skies of Elkridge and Howard County.
Earth passes through a stream of debris from Halley's beginning Oct. 15, which gives us the benefit of the annual Orionid meteor shower, though you probably won't see much until a bit later.
The shower should be at its best the night of Saturday, Oct. 20 until just before dawn on Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at about midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that—barring cloud cover—you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.
"It will be a fun to go out and look at them in the direction of the constellation of Orion," said Dr. Joel Goodman, a family dentist in Glenelg and a member and officer of the Howard Astronomical League. "The best time is after midnight- that would be towards the east/southeast."
Although the League is not hosting any watch parties for this shower, like it did for the Transit of Venus on June 5, Goodman said Howard County residents often go to Alpha Ridge Park, 11685 Old Frederick Road 3, West Friendship, to observe the skies.
What makes this particular shower so cool? First, c'mon, it's a show of shooting stars.
Also, though, there's no question about where to look for this one. Meteor showers get their names from the constellations in the sky where they can be spotted. And what's easier to spot than Orion the Hunter.
The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twins, Leo the Lion and then, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see - well, aside from the sun.
Something else special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.
Obviously, you'll have more luck catching the shooting stars if you're in a place not polluted by light.
Want to hang out with other stargazers in Howard County? Goodman, who recently Howard County's Volunteer of the Year award for helping residents learn about astronomy, suggest residents attend a public star viewing party Oct. 27 at Alpha Ridge. More details can be found here.
- With reporting from Patch editor Lisa Rossi