What's the buzz on the Orionid meteor shower last night?

Peak viewing time for the Orionid meteor shower occurred late last night and early this morning.

An astronomer uses a laser pointer to show the radiant of the Orionid meteor shower at an observatory near the village of Avren east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

So how was the Orionid meteor shower last night?

Just like we called A-Rod's home run last night as he was walking up to the plate, NASA pretty much nailed their prediction of 60 meteors per hour.

"Observers are reporting that the rate got as high as 55 per hour last night/before dawn this morning - pretty close to the 60 predicted," NASA's Janet Anderson told the Horizons blog.

"The meteor shower was pretty much as expected," she added. "Quite a few bright meteors, but not many fireballs or bolides."

What the heck's a bolide?

We headed over to Wikipedia to check. Their definition reads: Astronomers tend to use the term to mean an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes (sometimes called a detonating fireball).

Count us in for some detonating fireball action.

I just saw Halley's comet, she waved...

If you missed the show, at least there weren't many bolides. As we told you yesterday, late last night and early this morning were the peak viewing times to witness the effect of the Earth plowing into residual debris left over from Halley's Comet.

As Monitor colleague Pete Spotts explained, "The Orionids are one of two meteor showers each year generated by debris from Halley’s Comet. Halley’s last graced us with it presence in 1986, when space agencies around the world marshaled a small squadron of spacecraft to study the comet.

"Halley is a short-period comet that swings by the sun, then heads out just beyond Neptune before it hangs a U-ie and starts the trip inward all over again."

What'd you think?

We know what NASA says.  But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So we did some snooping around the Internet.

Consensus? Judging from the online comments, it's a mixed bag. Some loved it. Some considered it a waste of time. Weather played a major role. If it was cloudy, you were disappointed.

The Orionid Meteor Project

Our favorite conversation came from YouTube [video below] where a group of three friends from somewhere got up early and faithfully set up a video camera to capture the cosmic slideshow.

You probably know the rest of the story. The video camera captured nothing. The camera was pointed up at the sky and wasn't powerful enough to pick anything up.

But the microphone picked up their conversation. Sure, call us voyeurs, but they uploaded it and we listened in. And it's not like they released any top-secret information.

Drama unfolds

"Frank watches all these UFO hunter shows," one woman said to her friend at the beginning of the video. "So he can't help but watch."

"I think I saw one!" exclaimed the woman.

"Dammit," said the other, who must not been looking in the right spot. "I believe you," she said, but in a not very convincing fashion. We don't buy it. We think she was just being diplomatic.


Then comes a haunting revelation.

"Meteor-watching is like hanging out with dead people," the woman warned. "I am scared to death that a meteor is going to crash into us ... and it's going to take up the whole sky, and we'll know that we're going to die. And we can't do anything about it. It's just going to happen."

"This is my greatest fear," she said.

Then. Nothing. Dead air. Dead space. Then....

"Oh!" the other woman shrieks. "What is that? Is that a plane?"

Did we just happen to stumble on to a real live "Blair Witch Project?" Does doom await the trio?

Ehhh.... Nope. Whatever it was -- passed. If you were hoping for a reappearance of that Halo cloud that looked like a UFO, it didn't happen. Instead, they continued casually talking about the possibility of meteors ending the world.


The rest of the conversation dealt with many topics, like the acknowledgement that their footage wasn't going to end up winning any awards:

"I like how we're taking video of literally nothing."

And it reveals these are probably not professional astronomers:

Woman 1: "What is that blob of constellations over there? Is that the Little Dipper?"
Frank: "No, that's not a blob. That's a galaxy."
Woman 1 or 2: "No! You can't see a galaxy!"
Frank: "It's not the Little Dipper, it's too low in the sky.
Woman 1: "So it's a galaxy?"

They determine it's a galaxy before expressing disappointment in the lack of cosmic activity.

"How can there only be one [meteor]? This was not the media shower I was expecting. I was expecting a symphony of meteors. ... One shooting star in five minutes? OMG. I apologize for getting you up at the crack of dawn."

Then, just like in Survivor, the friends turn on each other. One woman went back into the house briefly. The other woman decided this was her chance to bury her...

"Let's tell her she missed it and it was awesome."


In the Twitterverse, things were more compact. You were forced to speak briefly. Some were pleased:

jay543: Caught some of the Orionid meteor shower early this morning. Beautiful!

Some were not pleased:

martyhmcgee: was disappointed by the Orionid meteor shower early this AM. Witnessed a few nice trails but none of the 60-sec exposures turned out.

Tough crowd in Atlanta:

mmcleod741: Orionid meteor shower in ATL = lame. Halley's comet - that all you got? Just keep your retrograde butt out near Pluto. Just stay there.

This Tweeter summoned the ghost of Jed Clampett.

orion2012: No Orionid for me. Dad-gum clouds.

Now we know what happened to the kid who hates everything...

SandyMariexo: just got done watching the Orionid showers, it was super fun with my mikey!!!!

Should someone call the authorities?

TheGreenAlien: "Orionid meteors" sounds like a fun night in Michigan. Too bad I'm stuck in a hole in Mexico.

And finally, from the Department of Nice...

leahabney: Just watched the Orionid meteor shower with my daughter. We saw more "shooting stars" than I ever imagined. Rule 32 Enjoy the Little Things.

Encore performances

Don't feel badly if you missed this meteor shower. There's plenty more to come. You can continue to look for the Orionids until October 29. Although last night was peak, it should still be OK for the next few days.

As for next year, here's a site that lays out all the celestial happenings in 2010.

See also:

Wow! 32 new planets discovered. These exoplanets dwarf the Earth.

Is Joe the Plumber the new leader of the GOP?

A bizarre new solar system, and a new tool for finding it


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