Orionid meteor shower is here: What is it, how can you watch it? - explainer

The Orionids are one of the most beautiful and stunning meteor shower of the year. They are set to run until November 7, peaking on October 21.

 This composite image shows 22 Orionid meteors streaking through the skies over Kitt Peak National Observatory, October 19-21, 2014.  (photo credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO/D. Moser/Flickr)
This composite image shows 22 Orionid meteors streaking through the skies over Kitt Peak National Observatory, October 19-21, 2014.
(photo credit: NASA/MSFC/MEO/D. Moser/Flickr)

October 2022 marks the return of the Orionid meteor shower, an annual month-long nightly showing of meteors in the sky.

The Orionid meteor shower itself started in 2022 on October 2 and are set to continue through to around November 7. However, this year they are set to peak on October 21.

Here is what you need to know about the Orionids, the vibrant autumn meteor shower.

Where does the Orionid meteor shower come from?

The Orionid meteors seem to always be centered from the constellation Orion, its radiant point. To be specific, NASA has specified that its radiant point is just north of Betelgeuse, the brightest star in the Orion constellation.

Whenever the constellation is above the horizon, the Orionid meteors can be visible, and the higher in the sky the constellation is, the more meteors you'll be able to see.

Photo taken by Rogelio Bernal Andreo in October 2010 of the Orion constellation showing the surrounding nebulas of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex. Also captured is the red supergiant Betelgeuse (top left) and the famous belt of Orion composed of the OB stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. To the b (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Photo taken by Rogelio Bernal Andreo in October 2010 of the Orion constellation showing the surrounding nebulas of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex. Also captured is the red supergiant Betelgeuse (top left) and the famous belt of Orion composed of the OB stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. To the b (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite this seeming connection to the Orion constellation, which helped give the meteor shower its name, the Orionids don't actually come from there.

Like all meteors, the Orionids have their origin from a much larger cosmic body like a comet or asteroid. In particular, the Orionids originate from what is likely the most famous comet of them all, 1P/Halley, otherwise known as Halley's comet.

This comet, which passes the Earth every 75-79 years, is famous for being the only comet whose pass can regularly be seen with the naked eye without the need for telescopes.

But as Halley passes through the Solar System, the icy comet is effected by the Sun, which causes some icy rock fragments to break off and even pass through the atmosphere of Earth.

This, in turn, is what are meteors, specifically a meteor shower.

Halley's comet is also suspected of creating another meteor shower, the Eta Aquariids, but this is still debated.

Comet 1P/Halley as taken March 8, 1986 by W. Liller, Easter Island, part of the International Halley Watch (IHW) Large Scale Phenomena Network. (credit: NASA/W. LILLER/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Comet 1P/Halley as taken March 8, 1986 by W. Liller, Easter Island, part of the International Halley Watch (IHW) Large Scale Phenomena Network. (credit: NASA/W. LILLER/PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Can the Orionids meteor shower destroy the Earth?

The idea of meteors can conjure up images of apocalyptic scenarios where devastation rains down upon the Earth from the unforgiving cosmos.

But really, meteor showers are not only 100% safe, they're also absolutely stunning. 

This is because these meteors are so small that they burn up safely in the atmosphere in bright fiery balls, creating a beautiful and mesmerizing visual display in the night sky.

This is aided by how fast the Orionid meteors fly, clocking in at around 66 kilometers per second, or around 237,600 kilometers per hour or over 192 times the speed of sound. That's just two thirds the speed of lightning.

In other words, no, the Orionids meteor shower are completely safe and are absolutely beautiful to watch.

Where can I see the Orionids meteor shower? Are they visible from Israel?

It shouldn't be too hard to see the Orionids on some nights, given that this meteor shower is often cited as one of the most visually stunning of each year.

However, the peak is always the best time to see them because it will be easier to see the most amount in the sky.

In Israel, the Orionids won't be visible in the sky before around 10:19 p.m. each night, which is when Orion appears above the horizon, as noted by In-The-Sky.org, which catalogues what's visible in the night sky depending on where you are in the world.

The Orionids meteors will likely be visible until Orion disappears, around 6:20 a.m., but they will most probably be at their best visibility at around 5 a.m.

Because the peak of the Orionids meteor shower will likely be at around 9 p.m. on October 21, before it is visible in the Israeli night sky, the best time to see it will likely be after Orion rises that night.

In general, the best place to view meteor showers in Israel is away from the cities and in areas in the South. In particular, Mitzpe Ramon is usually the favorite due to a lack of urban light interfering.