Viewing the Orionid Meteor Shower in 2014

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Radiant drift for the Orionids during October and early November (Courtesy the International Meteor Organization)

The next few nights will provide the best Orionid rates of the year. The peak is predicted for the night of October 21/22 but the maximum is not sharp so rates will be near maximum between October 20-24. The exact rates are difficult to predict for this shower. Normally, around 20 shower members can be seen each hour before between midnight and dawn near maximum. 10 years ago rates equaled the Perseids with 75 Orionids appearing each hour. Currently though rates have fallen back down to normal so 20 Orionids each hour is a good guess under suburban skies. If you watch from town only the brighter meteors will be seen so expect to see only 10 Orionids each hour.

The radiant, located on the Orion-Gemini border, rises near 2200 (10pm) local daylight time (LDT). This is not the best time to see them though as some of the activity will occur beyond your line of sight. I would be better to wait until after midnight when this area of the sky has risen higher into the sky. At that time Orionid meteors can be seen shooting in all directions. The radiant is best placed near 0500  LDT when it lies highest above the horizon.

If you watch the same place in the sky all Orionid meteors will have the same characteristics. They will move in parallel paths and will posses the same velocity. These paths will lead back to the radiant in Orion. These characteristics change if you look somewhere else. In general, Orionid meteors will appear to be swift unless you see them near the radiant or near the horizon. Also the paths will appear shorter near the radiant and near the horizon. Therefore it is advisable to have the Orionid radiant near the edge of your field of view so that you will see longer meteors. I would suggest facing eastward or south. Personally, I prefer facing due south so that I may also see members of the south Taurids. There are also other minor radiants active in Gemini, Leo Minor, and Lynx this time of year.

Luckily the moon is approaching new so it will rise just before dawn and will be too thin to interfere with meteor observing. Next year, we will not be so lucky as the bright waxing gibbous moon will be sky most of the night. If your skies are clear this week, get out and watch the show!

Simulated Orionid meteors as seen near 4am local standard time looking north from mid-southern latitudes

Simulated Orionid meteors as seen near 5am local daylight time looking south from mid-northern latitudes



  • Sonya Thompson 2 years ago

    I witnessed Monday night’s fireball shoot across the horizon here in Tennessee. It was the most spectacular thing I have ever witnessed. The light blazing in the tail was the brightest, purest light ever and left me absolutely speechless. It was something I will never forget!

    Reply to Sonya
  • Attilo Galliu 2 years ago

    I saw a large fireball crossing the horizon at about 10 degrees from the horizon, from an Easterly to North Easterly direction while standing on the shore in San Juan Island, WA.

    Reply to Attilo
  • Attilo Galliu 2 years ago

    Correction: On October 23, 2014, at around 7:30pm, I saw a large fireball crossing the horizon at about 10 degrees from the horizon, from an Easterly to North Easterly direction while standing on the shore in San Juan Island, WA.

    Reply to Attilo
  • Pamela C 2 years ago

    My 21 yr old Daughter and I together witnessed a very large Meteor or Fireball this past Friday night. Friday Oct. 24th at approximately 10:30 or 10:45 pm It was very large bright yellow/orange in color. moving very very fast from right to left in a downward motion. It Then seemed to level out flash a bit brighter and then disappear. It was Amazing to say the least. The only thing is that Ive been looking at pictures and videos of fireballs and they all seemed to leave some kind of vapor trail or have some kind of tail behind it. This one did not ?!?!?!

    Reply to Pamela
    • amsadmin 2 years ago

      Pamela and All,

      Not all bright meteors leave persistent trains. These trails are most often seen with bright meteors that have a velocity in excess of 25 miles per second.

      Robert Lunsford

      Reply to amsadmin

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