Watch the Orionid Meteor Shower 2021 Light up the Sky After the Draconids

This month, the Orionid meteor shower will reach peak activity soon after the short-lived Draconids come and go.

The Orionids are a medium-strength shower that sometimes reaches high rates of activity. In 2021, the meteor shower will be active between September 26 and November 22, reaching its peak on the night of October 20-21, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

Unfortunately, the moon will be completely full on this night, significantly reducing the chances of seeing Orionid meteors.

In a normal year, the Orionids produce 10-20 visible meteors per hour at their peak when seen from a dark location. But this year, the strength of the moon's light, which will shine for most of the night, likely means fewer meteors will be visible at the shower's maximum.

Despite this, it will be possible to see the Orionids throughout October, although activity wanes the further you get from the peak. For the best viewing conditions, find a location away from street lights and other sources of light pollution. You don't need any special equipment, just your eyes.

The meteors are visible in all parts of the sky, so locations with a wide-open space are recommended. The highest number of Orionids are usually visible in the few hours before dawn, according to EarthSky.

Orionids tend to be extremely fast, entering our atmosphere at speeds of around 41 miles per second, with fine trains—trails of vaporized material that glow in the sky.

Meteor showers are celestial events in which numerous meteors—or "shooting stars"—appear in the night sky, seemingly originating from a single point, which is known as the radiant. In the case of the Orionids, this radiant lies in the constellation of Orion.

These celestial events occur when the Earth passes through streams of cosmic debris left behind by comets—and a handful of asteroids—in their orbits around the sun. The origin of the debris that produces the Orionids is the famous Halley's Comet, which is visible from Earth every 75-76 years.

When this debris enters the Earth's atmosphere, it burns up at high speeds, producing the streaks of light that we see in the sky.

Unlike the Orionids, which tend to provide a good show for people all over the world, the Draconids are best seen from the Northern Hemisphere. According to EarthSky, the Draconids are only active between October 6 and 10, meaning the event is much shorter than other meteor showers.

In addition, the best time to see the Draconids is in the evening after nightfall—this is different to most other showers, which are best seen in the early hours of the morning. In 2021, the Draconids are expected to peak on October 8, when the thin waxing crescent moon will not spoil the show.

The Draconids usually only produce a handful of visible meteors per hour in most years, although in rare instances it has been responsible for extremely active displays involving many hundreds of meteors in a single hour.

The Orionid meteor shower
Stock image showing an Orionid meteor in the night sky above Japan. iStock