Watch for a ghostly glow rising from the corpse of streaking meteorites once they pass
Space news – October (2014) –
This Halloween modern sky watchers in both hemispheres have the opportunity to witness a ghostly celestial phenomenon viewed by ancient astronomers for generations, the ghostly afterglow of streaking meteorites of the Orionid meteorite shower. For a few nights centered on October 21, 2014, you can watch for a ghostly glow rising from the corpse of each streaking meteorite, which is pieces of Halley’s Comet burning up as they pass through Earth’s atmosphere.
E.C. Herrick is thought to have made the first modern sighting of the Orionid meteorite shower between 1839-40, but his measurements and data were imprecise. The first pinpoint study of this meteorite shower is credited to noted astronomer A.S. Herschel on October 18, 1864, when he recorded 14 meteorites appearing to originate from the constellation of Orion, but it would take a further year of study to confirm his findings.
During the 19th century, British astronomer W.F. Denning and American astronomer C.P. Olivier had a documented debate about whether the point from where the meteorites appear to originate moved from night to night. It would take until the 20th century for modern space scientists to determine using state-of-the-art photography and precise plotting of Orionids that this is in fact not true.
W.F. Denning published a report in one 1887 issue of The Observatory, in which he stated he saw 47 of 57 streaking Orionids leave a ghostly glow in their path after passing, during a viewing session lasting five nights. Denning estimated the magnitudes of streaking Orionids’ between 2nd and 4th magnitude, due to several that brightened considerably after burning up. Watch carefully on the nights centered around October 21, 2014, and you could witness this ghostly celestial phenomenon for yourself.
The best part of viewing Orionids is you don’t need technology because human eyes are perfect for the job. The Moon will be almost new this October, so just find the best spot to view the night sky you know, and lie down on a soft spot on the ground. The best time to arrive for the show is just before midnight or just prior to dusk, but any time between 12 and dawn should be fine. Viewers in the Southern Hemisphere should look towards the northeastern sky, while people in the Northern Hemisphere should look towards the southeast.
Get out there and view the cosmos
Serious sky watchers desiring to get a better idea of the exact times and dates during October 2014 to view Orionids where they live, can get a better estimate here. Just remember to check weather forecasts for the October nights you plan on viewing the night sky for Orionids and dress accordingly. If everything goes as predicted this Orionid meteorite shower could provide as many as 20 opportunities an hour to view a ghostly glow rising from the corpse of a streaking meteorite.
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