Tonight, the Orionid meteor shower will streak across the sky again, making it possible to see more than 22 to 33 meteors per hour. This is the result of “cosmic chaos,” according to BNR space journalist Patricia van Liemt.
The meteor shower comes from the famous Halley’s Comet, which is visible to the naked eye, according to Van Liemt, once every 76 years. “This means we will have to look at the sky again in 2061,” she explains. But we are talking about the swarm surrounding the comet, which consists of gravel and dust. This swarm moves periodically across the Earth.
Orionids get their name from their radiance, or the visual point from which stars appear. “The point of light that we think we see is in the constellation Orion,” van Liemt continues. “Those are the three stars we know so well.”
A star shower is caused by Earth moving along Halley’s dust path. The gravel and dust particles then come into contact with the atmosphere, causing them to ignite. “We call that a meteor.”
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But the reason Orionids stand out from other swarms is their speed. The particles can move through the air at speeds of 66 kilometers per hour, providing additional service to the eyes. “The moment those particles fly through the atmosphere, a glowing trail is left behind,” Van Liemt explains. “This is the tail of the star, very beautiful to see.”
To be lucky
It can be clearly seen from the ground, provided you’re lucky. The size of gravel varies from a grain of sand to an object as large as a tennis ball. “But because of the tremendous speed, it produces a beautiful light effect,” says van Liemt. “You can see it with the naked eye, but the weather forecast should cooperate and you should not be alarmed by light pollution.”