This past weekend, the annual Orionid meteor shower reached it's peak. On Friday night I was out late walking with my husband and dog, and I saw the most amazing shooting star. It was larger than average, and moved slowly, like a bottle rocket flame floating to earth after the firework has popped.
The Orionids are an annual event that occur every late October. They are named after the constellation where they seem to originate, Orion. The late autumn skies are generally clear and cold, and if the moon is in a dark phase you can end up with perfect stargazing conditions. Here in the southern part of the USA, October nights tend to be chilly but not freezing cold. With a mug of some sort of warm beverage, and a light jacket, you can sit outside at night in comfort.
Last night I hoped to see a few more meteors, so I went out around midnight and got in the hammock to watch. (Hammocks are perfect for stargazing. Lying in a hammock helps one avoid the strain in the neck you get from looking up while sitting or standing.) It was a gorgeous night, but I did not see a single shooting star. The peak in activity is usually nearer to dawn, and I only stayed out for 30 minutes, so I didn't have high expectations. It was a beautiful night, and the sky was clear and full of stars, so I counted it as time well spent even without seeing any meteors.
Click here for a picture of a beautifully colored Orionid: