Our friends at Geek Girl Authority sent us this post on the October Comic Show by Taigne Hammock! Check it out, science mavens!
An Orionid meteor streaks across the sky in the above photo by Michael Supinsky.
This month, the Orionids meteor shower returns the night of October 20-21. The best viewing hours will be in the early morning of October 21st (2-3am). At its peak, the meteor shower could produce 20-25 meteors per hour. And this month, the new moon occurs on the 24th, so the sky should remain dark until just after 5am, giving skywatchers several hours to see the heavenly display.
The source of the Orionids meteor shower is Halley’s comet, which orbits the sun once every ~75 years, and made its last perihelion in 1986. The comet’s eccentricity is very high — 0.967 — and its orbit brings it closer to the Sun than Venus, and takes it as far as Pluto’s orbit. As the comet approaches perihelion, the Sun’s radiant energy causes the ices within to sublimate to gas, which in-turn helps to loosen very small bits of the comet on its approach. These small bits of the comet, most no larger than a grain of sand, are then gently pushed away from the comet by the solar wind. Over time, this causes a large tail to form and spread across tens of thousands of miles. The debris from the tail stays behind even after the comet makes its way past perihelion and zips back out towards Pluto. Twice per year, the Earth passes through this dusty, smoky tail at speeds of more than 67,000 m.p.h. and those tiny particles burn-up high in the atmosphere as they zip across the sky, giving us the Orionids meteor shower (and the Eta Aquarids in spring).
Comets and meteors in fiction are often used as harbingers of doom, and October is the perfect month to rediscover some classic horror films that use comets as a plot device!
Night of the Comet Blu-Ray sleeve insert for Arrow Video, artwork by Gary Pullin © 2014
In the 1984 film Night of the Comet the Earth passes through the tail of an ancient comet, leaving the atmosphere a reddish color and dooming all of mankind (except our heroes) to morph into… ZOMBIES!
Maximum Overdrive t-shirt design by Fright Rags
In Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive, the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, which causes inanimate objects and machines to come to life, who then try to enslave mankind. “Maximum terror… maximum King!”