October 19th, 2012
11:05 AM ET

How to watch the Orionid meteor shower

By Jareen Imam, CNN

Silver fireballs will streak over the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday and Sunday. The much-anticipated Orionid meteor shower is scheduled to peak over the weekend, greeting October skies and stargazers with a brilliant show.

The Orionid meteor shower will peak about 12:00 a.m. PST Sunday, although there may be meteor sightings before and after, says Karen Randall, director of special projects at SETI Institute. The “shooting stars” will be even more visually prominent because the new moon will be setting about midnight Saturday, allowing for a view unaffected by bright moonlight, according to NASA.

The best time to view is Sunday morning, NASA says: Wake up an hour or two before the sun comes up; the constellation Orion will be high in the sky. You don't even need a telescope; you can just lie down and look up.

The Orionid meteor shower appears annually as the planet moves through an area of space that is littered with ancient remnants from Halley’s Comet. The debris from the famed comet, which last visited Earth in 1986, helps produce up to 25 meteors per hour during the Orionid meteor shower.

The cosmic show will be even more visually spectacular as the entry of the meteors into the atmosphere will lend them green and orange hues as they pass overhead. Tracing the meteors backward, they will tend to come from the club of the constellation Orion the Hunter, according to Earth Sky.

The skies will not only dazzle with streaks of meteoric flares, the night will also be studded with an array of other celestial phenomena. You might see Venus; Mars; Sirius, the brightest star in the sky; and other winter constellations like Gemini, Taurus and of course Orion.

For those of us in dense urban areas with obstructed or nebulous night skies, have no fear. You can still see the Orionid meteor shower live on Ustream. The stream is made possible by a camera mounted at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

With that link, astronomy lovers will not only have a chance to watch the Orionid meteor shower, they can participate in a live chat with NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams. She will be answering people’s questions about the meteor shower via live Web chat from 11 p.m. ET Saturday to 3 a.m. ET Sunday.

Interested in photographing this cosmic experience? iReport recently held a live chat with astrophotographer Jay GaBany, who set down the basics of photographing stars. He suggested that photographers gear up with a tripod and a DSLR, and try photographing outside the city for the best chance at great shots of the astronomical activity.

So make sure to grab your camera and a sweater for the meteor shower this weekend. It’s a great opportunity to capture those long-exposure shots of streaking stars and time-lapse videos of the astronomical activity overhead. Then make sure to share your photos and videos with CNN iReport. Your iReports may be featured on CNN.

Meteor shower puts light show over Northern California

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Lyndon Peshek

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    Consider our own website as well

    May 12, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  2. dubrovnik apartments

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    November 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  3. gelli

    The time that the Earth passes through the greatest concentration of Orionid meteoroids is 11pm EDT. but this does NOT mean that this is the best time to see them for us here in North America. At that time , we are at the 'back' of the Earth, looking out at that part of space where the Earth has just travelled as it orbits the Sun. It is like looking out of the rear window of a vehicle travelling down the highway. It is not until after midnight that we begin to get to the 'front' part of the Earth and just like a windshield we start to see the 'raindrops' or meteors hitting the Earth's atmosphere. The very best time is just before dawn when we are right at the 'front'.

    October 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  4. trex

    Romney wll BLAME OBAMA.....................

    October 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Fire0bama

      You are a small person.

      October 21, 2012 at 5:12 am |
  5. Tom

    The only important tip: Get about 500 miles away from any civilization, because no matter how many times they write this same stupid story in advance of every meteor shower and comet, you can't see a single thing anywhere near typical city lights.

    October 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  6. BluToMe

    To all of you folks who (with good intention) cite a specific time zone (PST, etc.), you are in error.
    The best viewing time does not depend on a fixed time zone. The best viewing time is based on celestial mechanics. After local midnight is the best time. The Earth's west-to-east rotation makes your location "chase" the radiant of the shower as the Earth orbits the sun, thereby intercepting more particles in the shower's stream which is fixed in the Earth's orbital path.

    October 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • spam

      so where the snot do you look up to; likei really know where orians club is

      October 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  7. BluToMe

    If the video attached to this article is in real time, the phenomenon may actually be that of an Iridium satellite passing overhead. Iridium satellites are communication satellites with three highly reflective flat antennas that are about 2 meters high by 1 meter wide. These satellites orbit the Earth with regularity. When passing overhead, the antennas reflect the sun's light – beginning dim, brightening to a peak luminosity, then fading – similar to an airborne flare. All this happens at a constant rate of travel, which the video exhibits. For more information about Iridium flares, visit http://www.heavens-above.com. That website can predict when Iridium flares will be visible at your location (clear sky permitting). I've seen many meteors. They travel much faster than the video shows.

    October 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • SB

      It was a meteor. In other images you'll clearly see it burning up. The track was plotted. Etc etc. It was a rock.

      October 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
      • BluToMe

        Thanks for the info about other images. One would think that with all the resources CNN has at its disposal, they could provide unambiguous images/video.

        October 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Michael

      I'm pretty sure that was a meteor. I saw this from Hawaii. It was pretty spectacular.

      October 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  8. Noel telles

    Can you see the shower from Las Vegas nv and what time would be the best time to watch it .. .

    October 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  9. Francisco d'Anconia

    There IS NOT a New Moon tonight. The moon phase is Waxing Crescent (the New Moon was on the 15th). The New Moon sets at sunset (approximately), BY DEFINITION.

    Of course, I guess it's too much to ask for reporters to actually get their facts right. We've come to expect that our news be dumbed down.

    October 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Mason Myatt

      They had to dumb down in order to cover the Romney campaign. However, since nature abhors a vacuum in our regular day to day lives, there is a limit to how close they will be able to get to a face to face with Romney.

      October 21, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  10. Tim Rigney

    I'm glad that the moonlight from the new moon won't be a problem since it will be setting before the peak time of the meteor shower. . . :/

    lol! 🙂

    October 20, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  11. Where to Look

    The meteors can potentially be seen in any area of the sky... However, for the most part, when you see one, if you were to draw a line backwards across the sky from where it came, they would all come from the same area... With this shower, they would all intersect around the constellation Orion... As such, the shower is named after a constellation near their point of origin - not necessarily where you will actually see them... The Perseids shower in August is hands down the best - last year we saw nearly 100 in less than an hour while sitting in a large dark meadow outside of Yellowstone park! Have fun!

    October 20, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  12. Tina

    What would be a good time to watch for someone in st louis, MO? Thank you.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Brian

      Tina, Peak time is around midnight PST that would be around 2:00Am Sunday in St Louis. Wishing you clear sky's and warm company.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
      • BluToMe

        Tina & Brian, the best viewing time does not depend on a fixed (PT, CT, etc.) time zone. The best viewing time is based on celestial mechanics. After local midnight is the best time. The Earth's west-to-east rotation makes your location "chase" the radiant of the shower as the Earth orbits the sun, thereby intercepting more particles in the shower's stream which is fixed in the Earth's orbital path.

        October 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  13. ma & pa

    Reading you talk and share information about this celestial event makes smiles here. If the sky is clear in southeastern Minn., we'll be watching with you.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  14. vbarton24

    cant wait I am going to be using my slr and good ol fashioned film to catch some photos

    October 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  15. Paul Cox

    It's no coincidence that this year's second Astronomy Day coincides with the Orionids meteor shower.

    To celebrate Astronomy Day, I'll be broadcasting an 11hr marathon of live astronomy on Saturday (starting at 12:30PM PDT and ending at 11:30PM PDT).

    We'll be watching for Orionid meteors in the observatory AllSky camera while we also watch live colour images of comets, asteroids, the planet Jupiter and its moons, galaxies, nebulae, supernovae remnants, and just about every other type of celestial object!

    There seems to be very little written about Astronomy Day, which is a great pity as we need to take every opportunity to engage a wider audience to astronomy and science. It's always a fun day which lives up to its tagline "Bringing astronomy to the people".

    Everyone is welcome to the free public shows tomorrow – there's more info here: http://goo.gl/8vhi6

    I can be contacted at coxy@slooh.com

    October 19, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  16. Andreas Balaskas

    Yes,i have see it before,but now they show very late and my eyes is very tired for to remain open...good night to you stars! Some other time perhaps.

    October 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  17. Sandrita

    I've found great viewing information on this site: http://www.spacedex.com/orionids – Hope you all enjoy the show!

    October 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  18. Burbank

    This report is inaccurate, it's going to be a half moon, not a new moon, that was last weekend.

    October 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  19. STEVED

    Orion looks like this.....
    * * *
    * * *

    * * *
    * *
    * *
    * *

    Vermont guy... look to your S.W. Straight up

    October 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • STEVED?

      Steve, Orion looks nothing like that, brother.

      October 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  20. horseman

    You need to be away from the city lights. They ruin the sight from their reflection from the atmosphere. The darker the spot the better.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  21. CosmicC

    If you have an android phone get Google Sky.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  22. Andy

    Download Google Skymap for location of the constellations!

    October 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  23. Joe Riplinger

    I keep looking for the location of this event. The only thing they say is look in the Orion area. All stars are the same to me. Please give me North, South, East, West. I am in Norfolk, VA so where do I look and don't say at Orion?

    October 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Captain Joseph R. Obvious


      October 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Jeff Cox

      Orion isn't a star, it's a constellation. And the reason why they refer to "Orion" is because the constellations move across the night sky the same as the moon does.

      Look up "Orion" in google images so you can get an idea of what the constellation looks like. It's fairly easy to spot in the sky (it's one of the more recognizable constellations going). Once you figure out where it is, look a little bit to the left of the grouping, above the three stars that make up the "belt". That's where the meteorites will appear to originate from.

      Hope that helps. Good luck to you.

      October 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
      • Roker

        Look for the Three Wisemen of Mythical Lore... that is the Belt of Orion. When in doubt, always ask Google. It's kinda hard to explain things for us non-astronomer folks. Like I said, best to use Google...they can tell you everything.

        October 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Amused

      Joe, The direction to look for Orion will depend upon what time you are viewing it. If you are viewing at 03:00 am EDT in Norfolk, you should look at the Southern part of the sky and there is where you will see Orion's "belt" identified by 3 fairly bright stars in a line slanted from east upward toward the west with the 3 more somewhat dim stars hanging straight down from the line of the "belt". This dim line of three stars is the "sword" hanging from the 'belt". Now look straight above the "belt" and toward the east and you will see a bright redish star (Betelgeuse) that is Orion's "hand" which holding a "club". The "club" is another star straight above Orion's "hand" . This area around this "club" is likely to be where most of the meteors will originate. Keep in mind, however that during a meteor shower, stray meteors can appear ANYWHERE in the sky! So the best strategy might to lay down on a chase lounge or blanket facing south and keep looking up!

      October 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • rosie

      Around midnight look straight up. I live in NC not far from you. It is easy to spot Orion as it tends to be a bit brighter than the surrounding star field. There is a straight line of three stars that form the 'belt'. In fat those three stars are what the Egyptians used to align the three great pyramids at Geza. One of the stars is slightly less bright, hence the smallest of the three pyramids at Geza is much.

      October 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
      • Joe Riplinger

        Wish I was on the Outer Banks to watch. A friend of mine has a beach house a little north of Corolla. Here in Norfolk where I live trees obscure 75% of the sky. Going somewhere else would be the thing to do.

        October 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  24. Circle R

    Normally, my big city view would suck...but I'll actually be in rural SC this weekend! Should be awesome.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • horseman

      nice area to see it

      October 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  25. glades2

    1) Make sure you are in an area away from city lights, 2) Don't be disappointed if you don't see very many or if you live in an urban or suburban area...

    October 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  26. Aubrie

    Was in northern Maine last week.... Clear, dark, cloudless sky. Milky way in all her glory... It was fabulous and the meteors were quite remarkable even then. My son and I spotted about 12 in an hour....Not quite as stunning as this shower, but wonderful none the less. Wish I could go back and see this display!

    October 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • galaxy101

      Anytime's a great time to go back to northern Maine 😉

      October 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
      • Daistaar

        I hear the Zumba up there is awesome as well!

        October 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  27. more2bits

    I would be a lot more interesting if they were to land in the middle or Iran......and do some good.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Tulloch

      Most of the meteors you will be seeing are the size of a grain of sand. They already have plenty of sand in Iran...

      October 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • mdmann

      Wonderful how most of the posts here are in anticipation of seeing a glorious celestial event, and all you can think of is destruction. Thanks.

      October 20, 2012 at 2:35 am |
  28. Fact Check

    New moons don't set around midnight; first quarter moons do.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  29. ashley ramirez

    Live! Orionids Meteor Shower 10/21/2012


    October 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  30. Bill D.

    LOOK!!! Up in the sky, it's bird! No, it's a plane! No it's a drone!!!!!!

    October 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  31. JCH

    In addition to watching the event (live or online), it is also possible to listen to meteor activity online. A google search will find those who are broadcasting live audio of meteors, but two meteor radars broadcasting live audio in the US are:

    From Alabama: spaceweather.com/glossary/nasameteorradar.html

    From Texas: spaceweatherradio.com/index.php

    Even if the weather doesn't cooperate, you can always listen to meteor showers online (day or night).

    @Alaskan, best time for observing Orionids is anytime after local midnight.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  32. Desi

    Seriously, this article leaves a lot out.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  33. Stew

    It's midnight where ever you are. That's when your little part of the earth is facing in the optimal direction, and also when the moon will set in your area.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  34. LCB

    Thanx for giving such a complete report on time, location, and background information for this event!

    October 19, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  35. Alaskan

    Midnight, huh? Care to give a timezone?

    October 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Anchorage, Ak

      What's up Alaskan ? sounds like around 7:00pm – 11:00pm our time. Should be able to see it we have clear skies in the forcast.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Joe

      You guys are goobers. It's midnight local time. Wherever you are, it doesn't matter. It peaks around midnight.

      October 19, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
      • Bob Ma

        It says 12:00 PST

        October 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
      • Joe

        You are right, I was stupid. I am very stupid...

        October 19, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • SB

      Bob, that means the peak will favor those who happen to be in that timezone because that it when the Earth will pass through the densest part of the material. However, Joe is correct. During the entire period of the shower, local midnight to early morning is when your part of the planet is facing into the debris.

      October 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm |


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