The night sky for the rest of this month is looking good with no harsh moonlight to wash out our after dinner skies.
It’s also a great target for the novice telescope owner because it’s just so easy to find stars and star clusters.
It’s also a good week ahead for watching the Orionids meteor shower with the peak occurring on October 21.
Generally, this is a good meteor shower for beginners with estimates of around 30 meteors per hour, writes Dave Reneke from Australasian Science magazine.
The best time for viewing will be from around midnight until an hour before sunrise.
The shower is centred around the Orion constellation.
From any backyard just look for the familiar shape of the ‘Saucepan’ and watch below the three stars that make up the bottom of the pan. Be patient. It’ll happen when you least expect it.
Just to spice things up a little, there’s a second lesser-known shower afterwards.
The Taurids are a long-duration meteor shower visible through Spring and peaking in the first week of November. They have been described as being bright, slow moving and with the occasional colourful fireball.
What exactly are meteor showers? They’re basically the tail ends of comets.
As comets orbit the Sun they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along their orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, we see a meteor shower. Showers are named by the constellation from which meteors appear to fall.
They’re incorrectly called ‘shooting stars’. Stars don’t fall out of the sky, they’re simply small bits of iron rock.
Has anyone ever been hit by a meteorite?
You bet! In 1954, an Alabama housewife was sleeping on her couch when a small meteor that crashed through the roof struck her on the hip.
In 1992, a large meteor exploded over the eastern US with pieces punching a hole clear through the boot of a woman’s car. Her old and rather run-down bomb instantly became a collector’s item and later sold for $200,000!
Enjoy the Orionids. They love dark skies so don’t forget to keep your camera handy if they happen - just in case.