The Orionid Meteor Shower is framed by some of the brightest and most beautiful constellations in the night sky. The meteors emerge from mighty Orion, the shower's glittering namesake. From there they streak through Taurus the Bull, the twins of Gemini, Leo the Lion, and Canis Major--home to Sirius, the most brilliant star of all.
Cometary debris streams like Halley's are so wide, the whole Earth-Moon system fits inside. So when there is a meteor shower on Earth, there's usually one on the Moon, too. Unlike Earth, however, the Moon has no atmosphere to intercept meteoroids. Pieces of debris fall all the way to the surface and explode where they hit. Flashes of light caused by thermal heating of lunar rocks and moondust are so bright, they can sometimes be seen through backyard-class telescopes.
The best time to look is before sunrise on Wednesday, Oct. 21st. That's when Earth encounters the densest part of Halley's debris stream. Observing is easy: Wake up a few hours before dawn, brew some hot chocolate, go outside and look up. No telescope is required to see Orionids shooting across the sky.
Orionids appear every year around this time when Earth orbits through an area of space littered with debris from the ancient comet. Normally, the shower produces 10 to 20 meteors per hour, a modest display. The past few years, however, have been much better than usual.
How to Watch the Orionid Meteor Shower
Meteor showers are really easy to view, and you don't need any special equipment. It helps to get out of cities away from artificial lights and light pollution. Take warm clothes, hot drinks and blanket or a comfortable chair with you. Viewing meteors, just like all astronomy, is a waiting game and you need to be comfortable, especially during the winter months. Finally, you need to let your eyes adapt to the dark - avoid looking at your mobile phone or any other light as they will hinder night vision.
Meteors will always travel away from the constellation for which the shower is named. This apparent point of origin is called the radiant. For example, if you look directly at Gemini you will see geminid meteors radiate out from the constellation. Lying down and observing overhead can be the best way to observe meteor showers.
The only thing you will need is a clear and comfortable dark spot. You won't have to use binoculars or a telescope to enjoy the night's sky.
The showers will appear in the sky like shooting stars so be sure to make a wish as they pass you by.
Photographing Meteor Showers
For photographing meteor showers, a digital camera mounted on a tripod is essential to steady the images. Meteors will move swiftly across the sky so a quick trigger finger also helps, but even random clicks during the height of 'prime-time' can also produce great results. Be sure to have the camera focused on infinity and, if your camera permits, leave the shutter open for several minutes for the most spectacular photographic effects.