CHARLOTTE, NC – The Orionid meteor shower is still building towards its peak, but you should search the skies over North Carolina now. By the time the peak arrives at or before dawn on the morning of Oct. 21, a bright waxing gibbous moon – that means the moon is bigger – wants to interfere with viewing, but you should be able to see meteors this week during the predawn hours.
While the Orionids are typically modest in the number of meteors they produce – between 20 and 30 shooting stars – the shower is one of the most beautiful in the world since they are known for their brightness and speed, according to NASA.
The weather forecast in the Charlotte metro region over the next Several days did not happen there could be passing showers. The long-range forecast, however, calls for clear skies when the shower peaks on Oct. 21
The fast-moving Orionids travel about 148,000 miles and can leave glowing "trains" – that is, incandescent bits of debris that can last for several seconds to minutes. Almost meteors so sometimes become fireballs, so be on the lookout for extended explosions of light when you're viewing the Orionids, NASA says.
And there's another bonus.
"The Orionids are so framed by some of the brightest stars in the night sky, which lend a spectacular backdrop to these showy meteors," NASA wrote on its website.
(If you have an iPhone, click here to get the free Patch iPhone app; download the free Android patch app here.)
The Orionids are not
If you're seeing meteors in the northern sky, they could be leftovers from the Draconids, which peaked earlier this month. Taurid meteor shower, which started in September and continues into early December.
So, how do you know if your're seeing shooting stars from the Orionid meteor shower? Orion the Hunter, one of the most conspicuous constellations. Orion's sword, slightly north of his left shoulder, is the shower's radiant point (the star Betelgeuse). Orion.
But do not stare directly at Orion.
"It is actually better to see the Orionids from 45 to 90 degrees away from the radian," NASA says ,
See also: See also: Patch 2018 Guide To Meteor Showers, Celestial Events
If you wait until the Orionids' Oct. 21 peak to look for meteors, you're likely to be disappointed, according to EarthSky.org, which said there will be only one letter to see you in the hour or two before dawn. The meteors fly through Oct. 29.
The Orionids are extremely fast, whizzing at about 148,000 mph. The can produce up to 80 meteors an hour, but 2018 is not expected to be outburst year, Cooke said. Instead, they'll probably fly at a rate of 20 or 30 an hour, he said.
Like the Eta Aquarids in May, the Orionids are produced by debris left behind Comet Halley, the most famous of all comets. Halley swings by the sun every 76 years and last seen on Earth in 1986 and will not be seen again until 2062. The comet leaves behind a debris trail, which ponds into a year during its orbit.
More Meteor Showers in 2018
If the Orionids disappoint, there are several more to see meteor showers in 2018. If you can only catch one of them, make it the Geminids in mid-December. It is typically the best of the year, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors an hour at its peak. Here's a look at what's ahead:
Nov. 5-6: The Taurid's meteor shower is long running, from Sept. 7-Dec. 10, and is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams – the first produced by dust grain left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10, and second by debris from Comet 2P Encke. It's a minor show, producing only about 5 or 10 meteors an hour, and is best viewed after midnight. Taurus, but you should be able to see them anywhere in the sky.
Nov. 17-18: The Leonid meteor shower runs from Nov. 6-30. It's an average shower offering up to 15 meteors an hour at its peak, but the Leonids has a cyclonic peak every 33 years where hundreds of shooting stars can be seen. The last time that happened in 2001. Though not as prolific as some other meteor showers, the meteors are extremely fast, moving at a speed of about 44 miles per second, which increases the chances of fireballs. The shower originates from the constellation Leo, but meteors can be seen from any point in the sky. Tempel-Tuttle, discovered in 1865. The best viewing time in the early morning, and skies should be quite dark with a gibbous moon.
Dec. 13-14: The Geminid meteor shower, which originates from the constellation Gemini, is typically the best of the year, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors an hour at its peak. The shower runs from Dec. This is 3200 Phaethon, discovered in 1982. Viewing conditions should be excellent because the first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving dark skies. The peak viewing times are in the early morning hours, but the Geminids are active before midnight.
Dec. 21-22: The year's final meteor shower is a minor one, and it's often overlooked. The Ursids meteor shower, which runs Dec. 17-25, produces about 5 to 10 meteors an hour, although occasional outbursts have been produced 25 or more an hour. A full moon will wash out all but the brightest, however. The Ursids originate from the constellation of Ursula Minor, and are produced by the Tuttle discovered in 1790.
Patch, patch staff, contributed
Photo by Ethan Miller / Getty Images