How to see the Orionid meteor shower

Get the best view of the Orionid meteor shower this October as it passes over the northern hemisphere. Here's our guide to what it is, when it happens and where to see it.

Spectacular Meteor Shower at the ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset with night sky in background

Nothing breaks up the mid-routine of dinner, TV and bedtime like an exciting astronomical event – especially one as reliable as the Orionid meteor shower. Wrap up warm, bring a flask of hot tea and some camping chairs, and take yourself out somewhere away from city lights to enjoy this free cosmic display of  shooting stars.

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The best time to see the 2021 Orionid meteor shower is on 21 October, between midnight and dawn. This year it co-incides with a full moon, which means you may not see as many meteors as normal. However, it’s still a great reason to get the family outside and looking up.

What is the Orionid meteor shower?

The Orionid meteor shower is one of the most visible regular meteor showers around the world, occurring every year in October. On a clear night, it is easy to spot ‘shooting stars’, particularly if you’re able to view them away from sources of major light pollution.

The meteors that make up this spectacle are in fact pieces of the famous Halley’s comet (Comet 1P/Halley), which passes the earth just once every 75-76 years. As this is not due to come near us until 2061, the Orionids meteor shower is considered extra special for those who may miss that once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

House silhouetted against night sky with light coming from windows and meteor shower in sky beyond
Meteor shower over Romney Marsh, Kent. © Zoltan Tasi/Unsplash.

How can I see the 2021 Orionid meteor shower?

The Orionid meteor shower will peak on 21 October between midnight and dawn. For the best chance of seeing it, head away from city and town lights towards your biggest green space – whether that’s a large park or a country lane. Or, to make more of a night of it, plan a route to your nearest Dark Sky Reserve for optimum stargazing potential.

In the UK you can visit the Dark Sky Discovery website to browse a map that shows you where you can spot the Orion constellation and places you can even see the Milky Way.

More related content

• Stargazing guide: Britain’s dark sky sites, best places to stargaze, plus how to get started

Where should you go to get the best views? Chris Bramley, editor of The Sky At Night magazine, rounds up the UK’s best spots in our guide to stargazing.

Milky Way stargazing at Kielder Observatory

What do I need to watch the Orionid meteor shower?

You don’t need any specialist equipment, but keen photographers might want to bring their camera, tripod and binoculars. Bring a camping chair, warm clothes, a flask of tea and possibly a blanket to get set for a night under the stars.

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Check the weather forecast before you go, as a cloudy night will impinge upon your changes of seeing any cosmic activity.

For more information on how to spot the Orionid meteors, see this excellent article by The Sky at Night.