ST. GEORGE – The annual Orionid meteor shower peaks Wednesday night into Thursday morning, and the Southern Utah Space Foundation is hosting a free public meteor party featuring marshmallows, laser pointers and a telescope for viewing.
Orionid meteors appear every year around this time, when Earth travels through an area of space littered with debris from Halley’s Comet.
The Orionid meteors appear to originate from the northern part of Orion. Many see Orion the Hunter as a large rectangle. Look for its distinctive row of three medium-bright stars in the middle – those stars represent Orion’s Belt.
The brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is to the southwest of Orion, and the Belt stars always point to Sirius. This constellation is up in the southeast in the hours after midnight and it’s high in the south before dawn.
You don’t need to know where Orion is, to see the meteors; they appear in all parts of the sky. But if you trace the paths of the meteors backwards, you’ll see they all seem to come from this constellation.
The best time for viewing for these fast-streaking Orionid meteors is between midnight and dawn. This year, virtually no moonlight will interfere during predawn hours, as the waxing moon sets before the peak hours of the shower.
Observing is simple: set the alarm a few hours before dawn, go outside and look up in the direction of the constellation Orion. No telescope is necessary to see Orionids shooting across the sky.
The next meteor shower is the Leonids, with the peak expected from midnight until dawn on Nov. 18.
The Southern Utah Space Foundation viewing party is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Three Peaks Recreation Area. This will be a dark night and prime for viewing.
The Foundation recommends wrapping up for warmth and bringing a blanket or chair that will allow viewers to lie back and just watch the sky. Marshmallows, laser pointers and a telescope will be provided to view other objects in the night sky.
- Directions to Three Peaks from Cedar City can be found here
- Directions to Three Peaks from Enoch City can be found here
- To contact the Southern Utah Space Foundation, email Leesa at [email protected], or call 435-633-1759
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