DETROIT – Tonight is one of our lesser-known annual meteor shower, the Orionid Meteor Shower.
Meteor showers are named after the constellation they seem to come from (this point in the sky is called radiant), and since the meteors come from the Orion constellation tonight, they are called Orionids. And you thought astronomy was complicated.
You probably know what Orion looks like, but if you do not, I've made a rough outline in this article (remember "Orion's Belt" … the three diagonal stars are close together). The Orionids generally come from the area of the sky to the left of Orion, which will generally be in the southern sky. The bad news about Orionids is that they tend to be weaker than some of our other meteor showers. The good news is that they move faster than average and continue to stretch across the sky. So when you see one, it gets pretty cool.
When? That's another bad news. Unlike our recent Draconid Meteor Shower, when the best time to see was in the evening, the Orionids are best seen in the one or two hours before sunrise on Sunday morning. And this is especially important this year, because there will be a bright moon in the sky for most of the night. Moonlight means we can not see the weaker ones. Yes, you can go out and look earlier in the night and maybe see a few, but you'll have a much better chance after this moon goes down and the sky is darker at night.