Orionid Meteor Shower 2020

Orionid Meteor Shower 2020

19/10/2020Written by Malika Andress

In 2020, the Orionids peak on 20/21 October, with up to 25 meteors per hour.

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Orionid Meteor Shower

Orionid Meteor Shower
Orionid Meteor Shower
Halley's Comet in 1986. Credit: NASA/W. Liller

Meteor shower alert! – the Orionids are coming to a night sky near you. In 2020, peak activity occurs on 20/21 October, but meteors may be seen until early November.

Twice a year, the Earth crosses the orbital path of Halley’s Comet – once in May and once in October. Comets constantly shed dust and stones as they fly around the Sun, and it is this debris along Halley’s path that causes the Orionids.

The debris hits Earth’s atmosphere at nearly 150,000 kilometres an hour and burns up in bright, short blazes about 80 kilometres off the ground. In May this same debris trail causes the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

Halley’s Comet takes 76 years to orbit the Sun and will next be visible from Earth in 2061.

When to view meteors

Credit: Stellarium

Credit: Stellarium

The Orionids are named after the famous Orion constellation as this is the direction from which they appear to originate. While the meteors originate from this point they can be best seen 30 degrees away from Orion, stretching across large sections of the sky. 

To view the Orionids from the UK, head outside on the night of 21/22 October.

Look up, keep an eye on the whole sky, and find as dark a location as you can!

In 2020, the 21%-lit waxing crescent Moon sets in the early evening and should not interfere with viewing, however, everything is dependent upon clear skies.

You do not need to look in any particular direction. Lean back, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and watch the whole sky (it helps to have friends look in different directions).

The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can away from city lights.

As always in the UK, clouds can be an issue, but be patient.

You can look for the Orionids on other nights as well. This shower runs annually between 01 October and 06 November.

Credit: Stellarium

Meteor Infographic

Meteor Infographic

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared to watch the Orionids!

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2020 include:

Taurids
Comet of Origin: 2P/Encke
Radiant: constellation Taurus
Peak Activity: 10/11 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Leonids
Comet of Origin: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Leo
Peak Activity: 16/17 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Geminids
Comet of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 14/15 Dec 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 120 meteors per hour

Ursids
Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: 21/22 December 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour

Clear skies!