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Orionids Meteor Shower 2012: Are You Star-Watching in Swampscott

We talk to local astronomer James Keating about shooting stars and their appearance early in the morning in Swampscott. The Orionids meteor shower should be a show worth watching.

 

Earth started passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet beginning Oct. 15, which is giving us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower.

Local astronomer James Keating has seen seen the Orionids shower in the past.

"The best place to watch is anywhere the sky is dark, but remember there are no guarantees that you will see any," James told us. "So one should always have a chair, blanket, etc. to enable one to sit back, look up and enjoy the night sky and maybe be lucky enough to see a meteor."

James, a retired Marblehead High School science teacher and the school's golf coach, said the most distinctive thing about the Orionids is they are associated with the dust trail left by Halley's comet.

"When you see a meteror they are streaks of light produced by tiny dust particles entering Earth's upper atmosphere. Because of their high velocities and the friction with the atmosphere they burn up and that is what we see.

"Also, if you projected back in a straight line from where the meteor emanates from, the constellation nearest to this area names the shower. Therefore the Orionids radiate from the constellation Orion."

The shower should be at its peak the night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at approximately midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that—barring cloud cover—you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.

To start look for Orion the Hunter.

The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twinsLeo the Lion and finally, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see—well, aside from the sun.

There's also something else that's special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch. 

For information about New England astronomy groups check out this link.

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