Shooting stars will be flying early in the morning, but it promises to be a show worth watching.
The offspring of Halley's comet are about to put on quite a show over the skies of Plymouth.
Earth passes through a stream of debris from Halley's beginning Oct. 15, which gives us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower, though you probably won't see much until a bit later.
The shower should be at its peak the night of Saturday, Oct. 20, until just before dawn on Oct. 21. This year, the moon will be setting at about midnight, which will keep the sky darkened enough that -- barring cloud cover -- you should be able to see up to 15 meteors per hour.
What makes this shower so cool? First, c'mon -- it's a show of shooting stars.
Also, though, there's no question about where to look for this one. Meteor showers get their names from the constellations in the sky where they can be spotted. And what's easier to spot than Orion the Hunter?
The stars tend to shoot from Orion's club, pierce Taurus the Bull, the Gemini twins, Leo the Lion and then, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see -- well, aside from the sun.
Something else special about this show: With the second-fastest entry velocity of all the annual meteor showers, meteors from the Orionids produce yellow and green colors and occasionally produce an odd fireball.
Plymouth is close enough to the Twin Cities' urban centers for light-pollution to possibly impede star- or meteor-gazing. (See a light pollution map of Minnesota at the Minnesota Astronomical Society's web page.)
However, if you want to try to catch a glimpse at the Orionids Meteor Shower, here are some viewing options:
- Parker's Lake Park might be a dark enough spot in Plymouth to try viewing the meteor shower, but there are homes around the lake so it might not be pitch black out enough.
- You could try Medicine Lake in French Park, but the park closes at 10 p.m.
- Elm Creek Park Reserve might be the darkest spot in Maple Grove to try to see the Perseids Meteor Shower, but note that the park does close at 10 p.m.
- And the Minnesota Astronomical Society lists several other facilities in the region suitable for seeing the night sky.
Explore the night sky without the light of the moon. On Monday, Oct. 15, from 6:30-8 p.m., explore the fall sky, highlighting the constellations and other celestial bodies that are visible this time of year. The Orionids meteor shower will occur during October 2012; learn what it means when the Earth passes through a band of meteors.
This program will be held at Eastman Nature Center in Elm Creek Park Reserve, Dayton. Cost is $5 and reservations are required. Call 763-559-6700 to make a reservation and reference activity number #412201-01. This program is for ages 6+. (Information provided by Three Rivers District.)