Watch a Supernova Fade and the Orionid Meteor Shower This Week

A view of the Milky Way from Yosemite National Park

If you've been telling yourself that someday you'll travel to a spot free of city light to view the night sky, this might be the week.

First of all, one of the brightest supernovas in recent time is visible, and it is fading fast (hopefully it's not too late). "The supernova will last for more than a decade, but it won't stay this bright," reported Daniel Hajek for NPR on Sunday from Yucca Valley in the Mojave Desert. "Within the next week, the light that took 21 million years to reach earth will fade out of view for amateur astronomers."

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You can find supernova 2011fe, as it's officially called, above the Big Dipper.

Secondly, the Orionid Meteor Shower is here and will peak early Friday morning. "Meteors should be seen in increasing numbers-up to 20 per hour-from midnight until 5:39 a.m., when dawn starts," said Anthony Cook of Griffith Obesrvatory's weekly Sky Report. Before sunrise on Saturday morning is also reported to be a good time to catch the display of meteors, which are "fragments of Halley's comet that travel along the comet's path and are destroyed when they hit earth's atmosphere," according to Cook.

Weather permitting, viewing both events shouldn't be too difficult thanks to the moon phase, currently transitioning from its last quarter towards a new moon next Wednesday.

For some of the best night sky spots in Southern California's deserts, check out our list here. There will also be star parties at two of those spots:

  • Friday, October 21st: 7 p.m. at the Oasis Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park. More info /planyourvisit/stargazing.htm">here.
  • Friday & Saturday, October 21st-22nd: Held at dusk each night, Death Valley National Park and the Las Vegas Astronomical Society will co-host a star party at the Furnace Creek Airport, just north of Furnace Creek Ranch on Highway 190.

Say hello: "Like" SoCal Wanderer on Facebook and follow @SoCal_Wanderer on Twitter to talk about latest in outdoors with other enthusiasts.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr user ohad*. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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This gives me reason to finally figure out how to use my telescope! Very exciting, thanks for sharing Zach!