Best spots to see the Orionid meteor shower in the Northwest
Conditions are aligning to provide optimal viewing as the Orionid meteor shower peaks this weekend, and the Northwest is expected to have a decent view.
The forecast is expected to be partially cloudy with no rain over Saturday and Sunday. A good tip for viewing any meteor shower is to head away from the city — away from light pollution. Though the Orionids are among the most active and brightest showers each year. With meteors traveling 148,000 mph into the atmosphere, they leave luminescent trails across the sky as they burn up.
According to AccuWeather, Western Washington will have “fair” viewing conditions, but Eastern Washington will have the best viewing conditions.
A few other things to know about the Orionid meteor shower:
- The shower peaks Saturday night into Sunday, Oct. 21-22
- Face southeast to spot falling stars
- It’s possible to see about 15-20 meteors per hour
- The best viewing time is around 2 a.m.
- The nearly-full moon will make it difficult to see the full display this year
- You may have to wait a few minutes until your eyes adapt to the dark to start seeing meteors
While it’s best to cross the Cascades to get the ultimate view of the meteor shower, you don’t necessarily have to go too far. According to the Washington Trails Association, Washington still has a few corners known for being the darkest and least affected by artificial light — therefore, the best spots to view the night sky. If you find a spot in the general area of the following locations — or the closest place to park without hiking into the wilderness at midnight — you could have a good view of the Orionid meteor shower.
- Mary E. Theler Wetlands: Near Belfair on the Kitsap Peninsula, this park is unlit.
- Steamboat Rock State Park: Located near Ephrata in Eastern Washington.
- Yakima/Ellensburg: The WTA specifically notes Umtanum Creek Canyon, near the Yakima River.
- Mount Constitution: This is on Orcas Island, but is in a state park. So if you go, you’ll likely be staying the night. This is not for amateur hikers.
- Silver Lake: Head east from I-5 near Castle Rock, take Highway 504 until you get to Silver Lake. Seaquest State Park is located here.
- Olympic Peninsula: It’s a big area, but the whole peninsula avoids quite a bit of light pollution. It’s also where the quietest place in Washington is located.
- Bainbridge Island: Battlepoint Park at the north end of the island has an observatory. The park is nestled away from the main lights of downtown Winslow.
If you can’t escape the city, Space Tourism Guide notes 10 spots in Seattle that are good for sky viewing.
The Orionid meteor shower occurs every October. It comes from dust and ice from Halley’s Comet which passes by Earth’s neighborhood every 76 years. The shower got its name from the direction that the tail tends to radiate — toward the constellation of Orion. The same comet trail is the source of the Eta Aquarid shower in May.