Orionids Meteor Shower: When And Where In The UK Can I Watch It?

The shower will peak in the UK on 21 and 22 October...

It might be a couple of weeks before Bonfire Night on 5 November but nature will be putting on a fireworks display of its own this weekend when the visibility for the Orionids meteor shower peaks.

Meteor showers happen when meteors (space objects that can range in size from small dust grains to ‘space rock’ asteroids) enter the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. This entry causes them to burn up and turn into fast-moving fireballs, which makes them impressive to watch from the ground.

The Orionid shower is one of the “most beautiful” of these showers, according to NASA, and happens around this time every year as the Earth travels through an area of space littered with the meteor debris from Halley’s Comet.

So what do you need to know to have the best chance of seeing them?

The Orionids meteor shower, 23 October 2016.
The Orionids meteor shower, 23 October 2016.

When can I see the Orionids?

Although the 2019 shower has been going on since 2 October (and won’t finish till 7 November), your best chance of seeing them is going to be 21 and 22 October, which translates to Monday evening into Tuesday morning.

You should go outside between midnight and dawn (approximately 7.36am in the UK) for the peak viewing hours so make sure you set your alarm early.

How do I see the Orionids?

Although NASA hasn’t issued updated information on the 2019 shower, they did previously say the best way to see the Orionids is as follows: wake up a few hours before dawn on Tuesday 22 October (the night of Monday 21) go outside (preferably in an area with low light pollution) and look up.

It’s also best to find a wide open space away from tall buildings or trees, and with as little light as possible.

As there are around 20 meteors zooming through the air every hour at speeds of 148,000 miles per hour, you should be able to see them with the naked eye.

This means no telescope is necessary but binoculars might make it easier if you have some to hand, especially if the sky is blocked by the moon, clouds or mist.

Unfortunately the grey, wet weather that has plagued the UK for the past few weeks might get in your way. Fortunately the Met Office forecast for the next five days is getting better.

The Met Office website says the outlook for Sunday to Tuesday is: “Mainly dry with bright or sunny spells, but rather cool with early frost and fog in places. Cloud and rain across parts of Scotland on Tuesday.”