CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- October 2012 promises a spectatcular display of meteor showers thanks in part to the timing of the Full and New Moon around the 2012 Orionid meteor shower which peaks on October 21, 2012 (other years are usually October 22 - but 2012 is a leap year).
The 2012 Orionid Meteor Shower becomes active tonight (actually early Wednesday morning) October 3, 2012 through November 13, 2012.
The darkest night in October 2012 will occur during the New Moon on October 15, 2012 - while the brightest night will be the Full Moon on October 29, 2012.
So, the best days to view the 2012 Orionid Meteor Shower will be leading up to its peak from October 15, 2012 through October 21, 2012 while the night sky is darker.
The best time to view the 2012 Orionid Meteor Shower is one to two hours before dawn. During the Orionid peak, the meteor shower can produce approximately 15 very fast-moving meteors per hour.
The Orionid Meteor Shower is named after the constellation Orion because the meteors appear to come from just north of Orion's bright star Betelgeuse. It is made up of debris left by Halley's Comet with a debris field that is so wide that encompasses the entire distance between the Earth and the Moon.
In addition to the Orionid Meteor Shower, the 2012 Draconid Meteor Shower will peak on October 7, 2012.
Somewhat unpredictable, the amount of meteors depends on the number and size of dust filaments left from from Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. If the Earth passes through gaps between the filament dust streams, there would hardly be any meteors to see. If instead the Earth passes directly in the path of a filament, a display of over 100 meteors per hour could occur.
NASA says that close encounters with dusty filaments produced storms of more than 10,000 Draconids per hour in 1933 and 1946 and lesser outbursts in 1985, 1998, and 2005.
The Draconid Meteor Shower is named after the constellation Draco because meteors appear to come from that constellation in the north sky. Unlike Orionids, Draconids are very slow moving meteors.
This article is based on NASA publications.
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA