Keep Watch for November’s Orionid Meteors

Although relatively obscure, this modest display is the strongest meteor shower in late November. Moonless skies make them easier to pick out.

Most of us can tick off the Perseids, Geminids, Leonids, and maybe a couple of other major annual meteor showers. But did you know that the International Astronomical Union recognizes more than 100 different well-established meteor showers throughout the year — with dozens more under investigation? Who has time to observe all of those!

You might think that late November is one of those "in-between" spells when not much is happening, meteor-wise. However, the International Meteor Organization (a volunteer group of hundreds of observers) has recently called attention to a lesser-known shower called the November Orionids.

Radiant of the November Orionid meteor shower

The radiant of the November Orionid meteor shower is situated above Betelgeuse in the upraised arm of Orion, the Hunter.
Source: International Meteor Organization

According to the IMO, the November Orionids are detected regularly in video data, and they're seen more often than are several other minor showers that crop up this time of year. It's a different stream than the somewhat stronger Orionids seen in late October, but they both involve dust particles shed by Comet 1P/Halley.

The shower lasts for a couple of weeks centered on November 28th, around which time you might spot a few of these per hour. The radiant is in northern Orion, situated in the Hunter's upraised arm and club a few degrees north of Betelgeuse. Don't confuse a November Orionid meteor, which zips into our atmosphere at 41 km (25 miles) per second, with the slower Northern Taurids that radiate from a point farther west in the Bull's horns.

The Moon will be within a day or two of new, thus not an issue, and Orion should be well up by about 9 p.m. local time and culminates about 4 hours later. So if you happen to spot one or two of the November Orionids (or if you go looking and see nothing), post a comment below to help us compile some ground truth about this modest display of "shooting stars."

5 thoughts on “Keep Watch for November’s Orionid Meteors

  1. Kurt-Hinaman

    Have an aunt visiting Denver so we took her to northeast Colorado Pawnee National Grasslands to see the stars. We had no idea there was a meteor shower occurring. We were observing off and on from 6pm to 9pm. We kept seeing fast faint meteors with no lasting trails. Orion was just rising as were were closing up shop and heading back to the Front Range lights. It appeared to me that the activity was much higher than the occasional background meteor activity. So, maybe it was related, maybe not. It was nice to have an aunt who really appreciated the night sky. Thanks for the article.

  2. Bruce-KopetzBruce-Kopetz

    Saw no meteors 28.Nov.2016, 12:30 (just past midnight) in south-eastern Michigan (Pontiac is 35 mi. northwest of Detroit). Sub-urban area, no clouds, very clear. I focused on vicinity of Betelgeuse for 20-30 minutes. Perhaps if I had read this story more closely, I’d have known the radiant was left and above Betelgeuse. Nice outing, however.

  3. Robertmorris7778@outlook.com

    Saw A Large meteor streak from east to west facing south on the night of the 28th. We had heavy rain all day and was enjoying the clear skies that evening. While facing south the meteor streaked across the sky! Very distinct and definitely a ! Keep looking up!!!!

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