How to Capture the Orionids Meteor Shower

Every year, our planet orbits through a field of meteoroid debris, treating us to amazing displays of shooting stars. One such celestial spectacle is the Orionids meteor shower, a stunning cosmic event that is eagerly anticipated by stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts. In 2023, the Orionids meteor shower promises to be a captivating show that you won’t want to miss.

The Orionids meteor shower is an annual event that occurs when the Earth passes through the debris left behind by Halley’s Comet. Halley’s Comet, one of the most famous comets known to humanity, graces our skies roughly once every 76 years. As it journeys through the solar system, it sheds tiny particles, creating a trail of cosmic dust. When our planet crosses this trail, the dust particles enter our atmosphere and burn up, creating a spectacular display of meteoroids, or “shooting stars.”

The Orionids get their name from the constellation Orion, as they appear to radiate from a point near Orion’s club. The radiant rises before midnight and is highest in the sky around 2 am. However, you don’t need to locate Orion to enjoy the show. The meteors often don’t become visible until they are 30 degrees or so from their radiant point. They are also streaking out from the radiant in all directions and will appear in all parts of the sky. It’s often better to focus on the darkest part of the sky, away from city lights, to get the best view. These meteors often produce bright fireballs and leave large trails.

The Orionids meteor shower typically occurs between October 2nd and November 7th, with its peak activity predicted to fall around October 21st-22nd. The best time to witness this celestial event will be after midnight through the the predawn hours of October 22nd, but you can still catch some meteors in the days leading up to and following the peak. This year’s Orionids are expected to be particularly impressive, with up to 20 meteors per hour during the peak.

Here are some tips for finding an ideal viewing spot:

  1. Escape Light Pollution: Head to a location far from city lights. National parks, rural areas, or designated dark sky preserves are excellent choices.
  2. Check the Moon Phase: A bright moon can wash out the fainter meteors. During the 2023 Orionids, we will have a moonless sky. The waxing crescent moon sets around 11 PM.
  3. Get Comfortable: Bring a reclining chair, blankets, and warm clothing, as October nights can get chilly. You’ll want to be comfortable while you gaze at the night sky.
  4. Be Patient: Meteors can appear in clusters or sporadically. Be patient, and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness for at least 20 minutes.

How to Capture a Meteor Shower:

  • Set your ISO between 800-6400 (depends on ambient light and lunar phase – since we will have a moonless night for the 2023 Orionids, your ISO will be higher)
  • f/2.8-3.2
  • Use the NPF Rule in Photopills Spot Stars tool to find your correct shutter speed. It will probably be around 6-8″
  • Set your intervalometer to take anywhere from 250-500 images. This will equate to several hours of shooting time.
  • In post, processing, cull through all your images and find just the ones with meteors in the frame.
  • Load all the meteor images into a stack in Photoshop, change the blend mode to lighten, and mask the layers to your liking.

You can download my FREE Meteor Shower Cheat Sheet HERE.

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