Posted on: Sunday 21 October, 2012 6:00
|KAU: Orionids to light up Kingdom skies
Orionid meteor shower is expected to light up Saudi Arabian skies this Wednesday, and the show could be dazzling observers, the Department of Astronomy at King Abdul Aziz University said.
The natural phenomenon will continue for 9 days. It started Oct. 17 and will continue up to Oct. 25 but early Sunday (Oct. 21) will be the prime time to spot the meteors as they streak across the sky while Earth ploughs through debris shed by Halley’s Comet on its path around the sun.
Samira Al-Harbi, an astronomer at the King Abdul Aziz University’s Astronomy Department, said: “The meteor shower is an annual episode that takes place regularly at the same time every year as a result of the Earth passage through the dust belt released by comets that pass near the sun.”
As a result some dust grains intervene with Earth’s atmosphere, which causes it to burn up and creates meteors.
The debris moving so fast in the sky for few seconds — roughly 148,000 mph — burns up when it hits the atmosphere.
Astronomers noticed that these showers happen at specific time of the year, and set a calendar to determine these occurrences and named each burst of shower after the constellation appears. In addition, astronomers measure the meteor shower with the maximum number of meteors that observer can see according to specific conditions of time, cloudless sky, darkness in regard to being as far as possible from the city lights.
“Orionids, as indicated in its name appears in the constellation Orion and is caused by the passage of Earth through Halley’s Comet that results in releasing of 20 flares per hour kicking the Earth atmosphere with speed of 66 km/second,” said Al-Harbi.
The phenomenon can be seen with naked eyes without the need for any tools or instruments that astronomers usually use for observation