The Orionids meteor shower will peak on the nights of October 20th and 21st this month, as the Earth passes through the debris from Halley’s Comet. With this shower occurring on the weekend, it is a great opportunity to stargaze as a family.
This meteor shower will originate from the Orion constellation, which you can find in the southeastern sky late into the night. The best time to view the meteors will be between midnight and dawn, with peak viewing in the hours just before dawn on the 21st. While this early morning viewing time isn’t for everyone, it is a great chance to make stargazing a very special time for your family.
Be sure to get your children to bed early on Saturday night, and then wake them in the pre-dawn hours for this special chance to see some “shooting stars“. Set up a cozy spot in the yard, have their stargazing diaries ready, and prepare a few snacks as a surprise. Sneak in to wake up your children in the early hours, while it is still dark, and tell them to grab their jackets and hats. Be sure to have your stargazing playlist ready to go!
The sky is full of constellations based on myths and legends from ancient cultures throughout the world. This is one reason that stargazing is important for children, and also something that makes it fun for them. The fall sky is full of a cast of characters from one of these ancient Greek myths.
Queen Cassiopeia and her daughter, Andromeda
Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of Ethiopia, had a beautiful daughter named Andromeda. While she was one of the most beautiful young women in all the land, Cassiopeia was sure that she was the most beautiful of all. Queen Cassiopeia, being a proud mother and boastful queen, declared Andromeda to be more beautiful than the nymphs of the sea. This greatly angered Neptune, the god of the sea. In his anger, Neptune sent a horrible sea monster to ravage the coasts of Cepheus’ kingdom. The only way that Neptune could be satisfied was for Cepheus to sacrifice his daughter to the horrible sea monster. Andromeda was thus chained to a rock in the sea, to be sacrificed to the monster.
At this time, Perseus was passing by after having killed the horrible Medusa. This great hero saw the beautiful princess chained to the rock. Perseus agreed to kill the monster in exchange for Andromeda’s hand in marriage. Cepheus and Cassiopeia agreed to this, and the great hero swiftly killed the monster and freed the princess. Perseus and Andromeda lived happily ever after, and all four characters (Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia and Cepheus) are immortalized in the fall night sky.
Check out our What’s Up in the Sky this Month page for an idea of planets and constellations to view in October. Don’t forget to print off the free Fall Sky Map as well!
If you’re looking for a good video about what to look for in the night sky, check out Stargazers. This is my favorite place to go for weekly videos on what to see in the night sky.