Diwali sky show after the fireworks

Samir Dhurde, 29 Sep 2006

Diwali is always celebrated on the New Moon night. New moon gives astronomy lovers the darkest nights for sky observations. If there is some special event, then astronomers stay up till late to see it. This year there happens to be a meteor shower around the Diwali night!

Meteors are popularly known as tut-ta tara, ulka or “shooting stars”.* They are pieces of ice or rocks from outside Earth’s atmosphere, which enter it with a high speed. The friction causes them to glow hot and we see them as bright star-like points moving fast in the sky. Meteor showers are special times of the year when we see more meteors than usual from some particular direction in the sky.

The shower this Diwali will be seen before dawn from October 20th to 24th. Every year it produces up to a modest 20 meteors per hour, given clear dark skies. The shower starts at around 2 am towards the East and can be seen till dawn. This shower is called the Orionids as it comes from the direction of the constellation of Orion which will be coming up towards the East. See the picture of Orion to recognize this pattern of stars. But you should be careful if you are planning to observe it, as the nights can get really cold. Go in a group and find a dark spot with open sky. Wear lots of warm clothes and lie on a carpet to enjoy the sky-show better.

Orion rising in the East

It’s interesting to note that these rocks we are going to see are actually part of the most famous comet - Halley’s Comet. This comet returns every 76 years. On its previous journey past the Sun in 1985-86, it left more debris near the Earth’s orbit. Some of this you will get to see burn up like pretty fireworks if you can stay up till dawn.

* Do check with Us for the marathi names in case of confusion.

The material here can be used freely. It is however expected that the source will be acknowledged.
Credit :  Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune.

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