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REPLAY: Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks

By By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
October 23, 2014, 6:30:14 AM EDT

A new moon allowed the perfect background for the dynamic peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower from Tuesday, Oct. 21 into the morning of Oct. 22.

Between midnight and dawn, as many as 25 meteors could be seen per hour, or one every two to three minutes, according to Slooh Astronomer Bob Berman.

Since it was very close to a new moon, the lack of moonlight provided darker skies and allowed for stellar viewing conditions.

“There’s no year better for the Orionids than this one,” Berman said.

Early in the night, when the meteors aren’t as abundant, Berman said it was best to look to the east. Yet as the night progressed and the Orionids become more prevalent, anyone with clear skies was able to see them in any direction they choose to face.

Slooh frequently airs live astronomy events by using community observatories from all around the world. For the Orionids, Slooh's has a recording of their live broadcast which started at 8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for those in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, and the northern Rockies to the High Plains, individual storm systems brought clouds that hindered viewing opportunities.

Viewing conditions were also be obstructed across southern and central Florida as clouds streamed in ahead of a feature in the Gulf of Mexico.

For stargazers those who missed out on the Orionids, a replay of Slooh’s live broadcast can be found above.


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Berman said they are using some new equipment such as low-light, high-resolution video cameras that are going to capture more of the meteors than they’ve ever captured before.

Accompanying the video broadcast is a radio feed broadcasted from Roswell, New Mexico, which will allow stargazers to hear the sounds of the meteors entering the ionosphere.

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"As the meteors enter the ionosphere, they, appropriately enough, ionize the air and that serves as a reflector for radio waves, so they actually give a crackle and a sound at the speed of light," Berman said.

“As the meteors are being seen, they can also be heard."

The Orionids, which are pieces of Halley’s Comet, produce unusually fast streaks across the sky because they hit Earth head on, Berman said. Earth moves through space at around 19 miles per second, but with speeds around 41 miles per second, the Orionids are about twice as fast as a high-velocity rifle bullet, he explained.

Berman said for reasons still unknown, the Orionids have a history of putting on a better show than expected.

There was a four-year period from 2006 to 2009 when the Orionids performed more like the famous Perseids, which occur in August, and can produce 60-70 meteors per hour.

“The uncertainty of whether we’re going to have a super shower this year or not is another reason to really pay attention,” Berman said. “We certainly have the great conditions for it, with this new moon.”

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