Cast off from Halley’s Comet, they fall.
This October day, ice and dust burning.
Orionid meteor stream, first quarter moon setting.
Dark midnight dome, then – Look! – dawn sky –
Sirius, Venus, Jupiter! All is right today.
The Orionids stem from debris from the most famous of all comets, Comet Halley, which last visited Earth in 1986 and will return next in 2061. Those bits of comet ice and dust look like streaks of light in the night sky – shooting stars. The best time to view is between the hours of midnight and dawn – regardless of your time zone, and in 2015, the first quarter moon sets in the late evening or near midnight on October 20, leaving the morning hours dark for meteor watching. The radiant point for the Orionids is in the direction of the constellation Orion the Hunter. Also, in the predawn and dawn sky, look for Sirius, the sky’s brightest star. And the planets Venus and Jupiter are also very bright – brighter than Sirius – and visible in the sky before dawn. via earthsky.org
An astronomer floating off the Florida Keys
sees a dark heaven illuminated by skyrockets
that seem to be falling upon him.
Launched from Leo that November 12, 1799,
extinguished by the greater fire of daybreak.
The first recorded observance of a meteor shower in North America was by Andrew Ellicott Douglass . He was an American astronomer who was on a ship off the Florida Keys in 1799. He described the Leonids meteor shower, which occurs every November. The shower gets its name from the fact that it seems to originate in the constellation Leo, and it’s the result of debris from a comet known as Tempel-Tuttle. When the comet’s orbit takes it back to that part of the solar system — roughly every 33 years — the Leonids are especially spectacular.
Today the Quadrantid meteor shower’s annual visit
peaked in the afternoon, hidden but there
like the Moon, for a twelve-hour visit
unlike the more-famous Perseids that spend days,
leaving an orbit trail around the Sun.