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Orionid Meteors to Shower Earth



  • Science
    --Space Science
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events
  • Grades

    Grades 2-up

    News Content

    October 21 is the peak viewing time for this years Orionid meteor showers.

    Anticipation Guide

  • Before reading, write the word meteor on the board. Ask students to share what they know about meteors. Write those facts under the word.
  • Next, write the words Orion and Orionid on the board. Orion, pronounced oh-RY-uhn, is the name of a constellation (a group of stars) in space. The Orionids, pronounced more like the name of a famous cookie -- oh-ree-OH-nidz, is the name for meteor showers that seem to originate from a point in the constellation Orion.

    News Words

    Introduce and discuss the meanings of the words in the News Word Box on the students printable page: meteor, comet, positioned, streak, and constellation. Ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these statements:
  • A ___ of lightning lit up the summer sky. (streak)
  • My mother did not like where I had ___ the couch, so she moved it. (positioned)
  • A ___ is a piece of rock or dust that breaks off from a comet. (meteor)
  • A ___ is a mass of dust and gas in space that has a bright fuzzy head and a long tail. (comet)
  • The group of stars that forms the shape of a bull are a ___ called Taurus. (constellation)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this week's news story Orionid Meteors to Shower Earth .

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    * Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    * Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

    * Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • Meteors come from comets in space. As comets get close to the sun, they heat up. Ice on the comet melts and dust that had been trapped in that ice flies off into space.
  • The Orionid meteors are believed to come off a comet called Halleys Comet.
  • The Orionid meteor showers happen every October, but this year the position of the moon and Earth provides near-perfect conditions for viewing them.
  • The Orionid meteor showers are so called because they seem to shoot out from the left side of the constellation Orion. That spot is called the radiant of the meteor shower.
  • Earthlings are often able to view meteor showers several times each year. Most meteor showers can be seen over several nights. So if the peak night (October 21 for this years Orionids) is cloudy, you might still be able to catch them the night after.
  • The Orionids are best observed between midnight and dawn. You stand the best chance of seeing meteors if you observe in a rural area where "light pollution from buildings and streetlights doesnt brighten the horizon.
  • Friction with the air is what causes speeding meteors to glow. Scientists estimate that they are moving at 148,000-190,000 miles per hour (mph).
  • The first record of an Orionid meteor shower was made in Connecticut (USA) in 1839. In 1864, A.S. Herschel observed 14 meteors that seemed to radiate from the constellation Orion on October 18. The following year, Herschel confirmed Orionid meteor showers on October 20.

    Comprehension Check

    What did students learn about meteors from reading this weeks News for Kids story? Add new information they learned to the chart you created during the Anticipation part of this lesson.

    Recalling Detail

  • Where do meteors come from? (They fall from comets in space.)
  • Why are meteors often called "shooting stars? (They burn up as they speed closer to Earth.)
  • What date is the best date for viewing this months meteor showers? (October 21)
  • From which constellation in the sky do the Orionid meteors seem to come? (Orion)
  • How large are most Orionid meteors? (about the size of a grain of sand)
  • Why should this months meteor showers be easier to see than those of some previous years? (because of the position of the moon and Earth)
  • If October 21 is a clear night for viewing meteors, in which direction must you look to see the Orionids? (Answers will vary depending on where you live: If you live north of the equator, the correct response is southeast, but if you live south of the equator, the best answer is northeast.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. Write down all the students responses. Then have students write a paragraph response to the question. They can draw on the class list of ideas and their own ideas as they write.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Science. Share these Sky Maps with your students. Choose the map that is closest to your geographic location. (The choices are Austin [Texas], Denver, Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle.) Select a map for the October 15 date. Explain to students that the map represents the position of the constellations in the sky if you were standing in the center of the map. In which of the two October 15 maps is Orion visible? (on the 2:00 a.m. map) What would be the best time to spot Orion in the night sky?
  • Closer to 9:00 p.m. or 2:00 a.m.? (2:00 a.m.)
  • In the hours before midnight or after midnight? (after midnight)
  • Facing north or south? (That depends on where you live. If you live north of the equator, the correct answer is south; if you live south of the equator, the correct answer would be north.)

    Main idea. Which of the statements below best describes the main idea of this weeks News for Kids story, "Orionid Meteors to Shower Earth? (The correct answer appears below in italic type.)

  • Orionid meteor showers come from Halleys Comet.
  • You should view meteor showers from a dark place.
  • October is a great time to view meteor showers.
  • Meteors are also called shooting stars.

    Science research. How does a meteor differ from an asteroiod? Provide students with a copy of a Venn diagram graphic organizer. (If you do this activity in your classroom computer center or the computer lab, you might have students use Education Worlds editable Venn Diagram template.) Pose the question: What is the difference between a meteor and an asteroid? Have students enter their information into the Venn format.

  • Facts about meteors are written in the circle they label "Meteor.
  • Facts about asteroids are written in the circle they label "Asteroid.
  • Facts about both meteors and asteroids are written in the area where the circles overlap.
    Students might use the following online resources to help them develop their Venn diagrams:
  • HubbleSite: What Is the Difference?
  • Ask Yahoo: What Is the Difference?
  • Education Corner: What Is the Difference?
  • Aerospace Guide: What Is the Difference?
  • Curious About Astronomy?: What Is the Difference?
    Students might work on their own or in pairs to compete this activity. If you teach older students, you might have some students answer the question above and assign others to answer the question What is the difference between a meteor and a comet? Or you might provide Education Worlds editable three-circle Venn Diagram template and pose the three-pronged question What is the difference between meteors, asteroids, and comets? The same resources above can be used for that activity.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
    NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

    See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2006 Education World