By Paul Downing
There’s an important and exciting astronomy event going on in the skies during late October – the annual Orionid meteor shower. A meteor shower is essentially a lot of what we usually call “shooting stars”.
Of course they’re not really falling stars, but grains of dust and tiny lumps of rock impacting the Earth’s atmosphere at 70 Km/second and burning up through friction. The Orionids are so called because they appear to originate from the constellation of Orion, and they are caused by the Earth passing through a trail of debris left behind after the passage of Halley’s comet.
The shower is due to occur during the night of October 20th, but to see anything you will have to wait until after midnight for the earth to turn enough on its axis to bring Orion above the eastern horizon. Wrap up
warm, take a pair of binoculars and sit facing east. If you manage to stay awake you could be treated to lots of “shooting stars”.
Did you know that scientists have different words for these things? When the particles are out in space they are called meteoroids, when they zoom through our atmosphere and leave those wonderful trails they are called meteors, and the ones which survive all the way to the surface are called meteorites.