comets-book

You can now buy the recently released book, Fall of a Thousand Suns: How Near Misses and Comet Impacts affected the Religious Beliefs of our Ancestors. It is available through iBooks and Amazon.

 

This website only lists information on modern-day comets and meteor showers. The book, however, thoroughly investigates how specific ancient impacts and near misses changed religious beliefs around the world.

Orionid Meteor Shower

Orionid Meteor Shower

 

 

Discovery of the Orionid Meteor Shower

In 1839 and 1840, American E.C. Herrick observed that a meteor shower appeared to be peaking in October. He said the "precise date of the greatest meteoric frequency in October is still less definitely known, but it will in all probability be found to occur between the 8th and 25th of the month."

 

The radiant was found on October 18, 1864 when A.S. Herschel observed fourteen meteors radiating from the constellation Orion. The Orionids quickly gained popularity and are one of the most popular, and awe-inspiring, annual meteor showers.

 

In the early 20th century, the Orionid Meteor Shower sparked a debate. W. F. Denning and C. P. Olivier argued whether or not the radiant was truly in the constellation Orion. Although the radiant of the Orionids is more spread out compared to other meteor showers, Olivier was eventually shown to be correct. The radiant is indeed the constellation Orion. The meteor shower remained known as the Orionids.

 

 

 

 

The Parent Body of the Orionid Meteor Shower

The Orionid Meteor Shower is the result of dust and debris left by Halley’s Comet (1P/Halley). Another meteor shower peaks six months earlier in the year, and can also lay claim to Halley's Comet as its parent body. It is the Eta Aquariids.

 

Although Halley's Comet currently does not have an orbital path which brings it near enough to Earth orbit to produce a meteor shower, this was not the case in centuries past according to astrophysicists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Although nobody knows for certain when Halley's Comet first entered the inner solar system, it has been observed and recorded for at least 2,200 years.

 

 

 

When are the Orionids visible?

The Orionids are visible from roughly October 15 to October 29. The Orionids peak around October 21. The maximum can last a few nights, with roughly 40 meteors an hour visible in the southern hemisphere. It is a very unpredictable meteor shower. Some years will leave viewers with jaws open. Others leave thinking it was a dud.

 

 

Orionid Meteor Shower

 

Radiant of the Orionid Meteor Shower

Credit: Stellarium with radiant by Kevin Curran