The peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower will be tomorrow on the night of October 21/22, 2010. However, despite the fact that peak doesn’t occur until tomorrow doesn’t mean that meteors will wait until then to start streaking through the sky.
Traditionally, the Orionids are a minor meteor shower, where one can expect to see, according to some estimates, 25 meteors per hour. The best time to view is in the pre-dawn hours as Orion is at its highest point in the sky at this time, just about due South. To improve odds of seeing meteors, travel out of light-polluted Cleveland and to the suburbs or, even better, the country if you can. In the suburbs, just going from the front to back yard can make a dramatic difference, too.
Unfortunately, the Moon is going to be just about full at the time of the Orionids, a real bummer. However, even with the Moon, the brightest of meteors can still be seen, especially if you are lucky enough to reside in an area with little light pollution (aka the country).
However, the Orionids being a once a year event, why not head out to see if you can spot some meteors anyway?
So how about viewing tips?
First, plan to stay out a while, as it takes the human eye about 15 minutes to get optimal night vision capability. The bad news is that, even one bright flash of white light will wipe out night vision, requiring you to start the process all over again. Next, grab a lawn chair or, even better, a lounge-type chair. Trying to lean back with a straight-back lawn chair can be a pain in the neck, literally! Eyes ready for dark and with something to sit/lay on, settle in for a night of hopeful meteor watching (or at the very least, stargazing), just try not to fall asleep and don’t forget to dress warmly as it will be getting quite cold in the Cleveland area during the night!
Besides meteors, tonight can be a great time for binocular viewing, owing to your use of a chair. Under suburban (maybe) or rural skies (definitely), a pair of medium power (10×50) binoculars can yield some stunning wide-angle sights. For someone truly dedicated, why not try and keep a tally of how many meteors you see for every complete hour? Really ambitious? Why not try photographing the meteors?
Whatever you plan to do tonight, good luck and clear skies!
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- NASA mission to Comet Hartley
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