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National Space Centre

Orionids Meteor Shower 2023

  • 15th Oct 2023
  • Author: Sean Sweeney

As 2023 comes closer to an end we look towards the Orionids Meteor Shower. This year it will peak overnight from 21-22 October.

Orionids Meteor Shower

The Orionids meteor shower that we observe in the sky comes from Halley’s Comet. This comet orbits the sun ever 76 years or so and when it approaches the sun the heat evaporates the comet’s gases, causing it to emit dust and microparticles (electrons and ions). These bits of dust and microparticles reveal themselves as a tail behind the comet once they enter Earth's atmosphere.

The Orionid meteors travel fast – 66 kilometres per second! They’re named as such because they appear to radiate out from a point in the sky which lies in the constellation of Orion the hunter. But the meteors of this shower originate from the material left behind by Comet Halley which orbits our Sun every 75/76 years. Since it last encountered the Sun up close in 1986, it won’t be back until 2061, but the stream of debris it has left behind over time remains for the Earth to pass through every year.

How to watch from the UK

The meteors will appear visible all over the sky to the naked eye so there is no need for you to splash out on any expensive tech. To best observe the Orionids Meteor Shower, you’ll want to get away from city lights, with a clear view of the night sky. On a typical year, the Orionids produce around 10 to 20 meteors per hour during their peak.

The best direction to face is that of the radiant in the constellation of Orion and the time to do this is typically after midnight. Patience is key, as meteor showers involve periods of inactivity followed by brief bursts of activity. It can take some time to spot meteors so make sure you have a comfy chair, some blankets and give your eyes enough time to adjust to the darkness.

The brightness of the Moon can affect the visibility of meteor showers. If the Moon is near full or very bright, it can wash out fainter meteors, reducing the overall visibility of the shower. This year during the Orionid meteor showers peak the Moon will be almost at first quarter. But luckily it sets just before 23:00 BST and 22:00 UT, leaving the whole night nice and dark for Orionid hunting.

Meteor Infographic

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared!  

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2023 include: 

Comet of Origin: 2P/Encke
Radiant: constellation Taurus
Peak Activity: 12-13 November 2023 (Northern Taurids)
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 5 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Leo
Peak Activity: 17-18 November 2023
Peak Activity Meteor Count: up to 10 meteors per hour

Asteroid of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 13-14 December 2023
Peak Activity Meteor Count: up to 120 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: Dec. 21-22, 2023
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 5-10 meteors per hour

Happy meteor-gazing!


Full references / credits:

(Banner image) Meteor showers. Credit: © National Space Centre

(1) Meteor shower alert. Credit: © National Space Centre

(2) Radiant of the Orionid meteor shower. Credit: Stellarium

(3) Meteors infographic. Credit: © National Space Centre