Orionid meteor shower: Peak viewing over, but still time to see stellar sights

Some streaking meteors likely the next few days

(CNN) -- The Orionid meteor shower put on a cosmic light show for the Northern Hemisphere over the weekend. The Orionids peaked early Sunday morning as more than 25 meteors an hour streaked the night sky.

The astronomical event caught the attention of many photographers over the weekend. iReporters from across the world stayed up late or woke up early for the chance to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower.

Renata Arpasova set her alarm a few hours early, waking up at 1 a.m. to see the Orionids from Wiltshire, England. She found a clear patch of sky and was thrilled to see a few big, bright meteors pass overhead.

She described the Orionids as being magical. "I love meteor showers, and have always been fascinated by them from an early age," she said. "They're nature's fireworks, and they are so breathtaking, especially when you get a big fireball that burns through the astrosphere."

"And you get to make a wish every time you see a meteor," she said.

A childhood love of space inspired Robbie Lopez to wake up early to watch for the Orionids as well. He was disappointed to look out his window at 2 a.m. and see extensive cloud coverage in Richmond, Virginia. Determined to capture a photograph of the Orionid meteor shower, he drove 25 minutes to a remote field in Chester, Virginia, and says he was not disappointed with the show.

"The shower itself was quite a beautiful sight," he said. "I had seen the occasional shooting star and had always wanted to see a shower, but never saw one until that night." He described the shower as a quick process, with streaks of light dashing across the sky, lasting for only fractions of a second.

"The sheer number of them made the wait in the cold worthwhile," he said. "I was even more surprised by how many more meteors my camera captured that my eyes did not see."

The quick dashes of light from are produced when the meteoroids strike the planet's atmosphere at approximately 148,000 mph, according to NASA. Fast meteors have a tendency to explode, becoming fireballs in the sky. Once a meteor explodes in the Earth's atmosphere, it leaves behind a trail of stardust, which viewers on the ground see as streaks of light, or the meteoric tail.

In North Wales, Kevin Lewis watched a late movie to pass the time before the Orionid meteor shower. He sat outside snapping photographs of the Orionids from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. Despite the chilly weather, he found the experience relaxing.

"Meteors always capture my imagination," he said. "Considering they are mere specks of dust, they have a huge impact on the viewer."

The Orionid meteor shower occurs annually in October as the Earth passes through a patch of space debris left from the famed Halley's Comet. The space dust enters the Earth's atmosphere as meteors, creating what we now refer to as the Orionids, which seems to shoot from the constellation Orion, the Hunter.

Although the Orionids is not the strongest meteor shower, it is considered one of the most beautiful, according to NASA. The meteor shower is framed by some of the brightest planets and stars in the sky, like Venus, Mars and Sirius.

Did you miss the Orionids' peak over the weekend? You may still be able to catch some streaking meteors for the next few days as Earth continues to pass through the remnants from Halley's Comet.  

 
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