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Orionids Meteor Shower 2012: Tips for Watching in the Chicago Area

Shooting stars will be flying this weekend in the Chicago area. The Orionids meteor shower promises to be a show worth watching, according to info from the Adler Planetarium.

The offspring of Halley's Comet are about to put on quite a show in the skies around Chicago.

Earth will pass through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet beginning Monday, which will give us the benefit of the annual Orionids meteor shower—though you probably won't see much until a bit later.

According to Adler Planetarium, the shower is expected to peak in the Chicago area just before midnight Saturday, Oct. 20, and continue until just before dawn Sunday, Oct. 21. The moon sets early that night, which will keep the sky dark enough that—barring cloud cover—you should be able to see about a dozen meteors per hour, according to Adler's information.

"Despite not being the most spectacular meteor shower, the Orionids have the most well known of all the meteor stream parent bodies," Adler Planetarium astronomer Michael Solontoi told National Geographic last fall. "As Halley's comet orbits the sun, it has left behind dust that was liberated from the comet when it was warmed by its close passage to the sun, most recently in 1986."

What makes this shower so cool? First of all, 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 finally, Canis Major, home of Sirius, the brightest star we can see—well, aside from the sun.

There's also something else that's 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.

To make sure you get the best view possible, remember to check the weather forecast and conditions before you head outside to watch. 

Science Guy October 13, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Bloom High School's Astronomy Club (and huge freakin' telescope) will be at Starved Rock this weekend for the shower and for National Astronomy Day on Saturday. This is a free event. For more information, contact Mr. Latham (club sponsor) at blatham@sd206.org.
Oswegosmarts October 14, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Sounds interesting
Mickey October 18, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Cool!! I'll be at Fright Fest in Gurnee. That would be neat to see. Hope it's not cloudy.
Liz Copeland October 20, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Can anyone suggest another good view place other than driving to Starved Rock?
Mary Ann Lopez October 20, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Liz, depending where you live, I believe the Naperville Astronomical Association will be holding a public event tonight in Naperville. Here is a link to information on where special events are held. You may want to contact someone to ensure the location and event info. http://www.stargazing.net/naa/map.htm#access
Tired of the B.S. October 20, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Liz, Anyplace with a clear view of the southwest sky is good for viewing. The main problem for people in the Chicagoland area is light pollution form the city. You need to get away from the city for good viewing. Try to get at least 10 miles away from any major light source (city lights, highway lights...) if possible. I usually go south on 57 or west on 88 or 80 until I am about 25 miles into nowhere and find a back road and park.
Ozzy October 23, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I was in Michigan away from the city lights and dragged myself out of bed around 4 AM (EST). Saw two but was too tired and went back to sleep LOL.
H.I. McDunnough October 23, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I've seen plenty of meteors while watching in my backyard in unincorporated Naperville. Heck, I've seen them from the roof of my building while living on the northside of Chicago. Make the effort and you shall (eventually) be rewarded.

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