Conditions have been mixed here in southern Northumberland over the Orionid maximum, much as elsewhere, but I'm hoping others were fortunate in seeing part of the display despite the weather and the Moon, who have still to report. Commiserations to those who were unlucky, since early indications are the Orionid rates were above normal on both October 20-21 and 21-22.
Here, October 19-20 was overcast and mild, but with gales, so no chance to see anything meteoric then.
October 20-21 was marginally better, in that the winds were just strong at times, but it was a good deal colder even sheltered from the wind, with a lot of fast-moving cloud all night. There was rain on and off for the first half as well, but this became less frequent after midnight, and I even spotted the occasional Orionid or two in what few gaps presented later. However, it was about 04h before there were enough breaks to chance a proper meteor watch. In the end, I snatched an hour before morning twilight from about 04:30-05:30 UT, but there was a lot more cloud than I'd hoped (an average 30% of my field of view was covered by it), with a limiting magnitude (LM) of just +5.3. Even so, I spotted ten Orionids in that time, plus three sporadics and a lone Southern Taurid. One of the Orionids was of minor fireball class at mag -3 (at 04:47), and a couple of others were of negative magnitude, but the magnitude distribution I saw seemed fairly typical for the shower as a whole. Under the circumstances, I was pleased with this, and it suggested ZHRs may have been up around the 50 mark.
Last night (21-22) started clear, cold and breezy, but clouds were hurrying through from time to time, and soon after midnight UT, there was patchy rain too, with higher, heavier clouds. I finally managed to look out briefly without getting wet about 02h UT, and spotted three Orionids in seven minutes before it started raining again, but that was the rain's last hurrah for the night, and skies finally cleared enough to allow some real observing just before 02:30. I was out after then into the start of morning twilight, stopping at about 05:35, and in three hours of mostly clear, LM +5.5, sky, picked-up 54 Orionids, 19 sporadics and three Taurids. There were four fireballs, three of mag -3 (two ORI at 02:53 & 04:58, plus an STA at 03:48), but meteor of the night was a cracking mag -5 yellow-green Orionid in early twilight at 05:14, shooting a little south of the Plough, and producing two flares, one about two-thirds of the way through, the other at the end. The first flare left a ~4-second train, but the terminal flare left a 12-second one, slowly shrinking to a tiny, fuzzy disc. Prior to that, event of the night had been a mag 0 and a mag +1 Orionid apparently chasing one another almost simultaneously down into the low NNW sky at 04:37. By-chance, I just happened to glance down there as they shot in, something you can't plan for! ZHRs (again just in what I spotted) may have been around 50-70, but all these figures will need confirmation. The magnitude distribution was similarly 'normal' to Oct 20-21 for me too.
Overall, the displays on Oct 20-21 and 21-22 were distinctly better than I've seen at past Orionid returns, excepting the excellent showing last year (I was clouded-out for the 2006 bright-meteor return), and my impression from this and what the initial IMO data have suggested (off the homepage at http://www.imo.net
) is that the predictions for another stronger return may have been borne-out.
There's the possibility improved activity, if perhaps below the very best, may continue for another night or two, with lessening problems from the Moon, so it could be worth keeping watch especially in the last few pre-dawn hours, when the radiant is at its highest. If you get some decent skies, good luck!
Meteor Director, Society for Popular Astronomy.
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