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Skywatching Guide: Meteor Showers of 2011

How Comets Cause Meteor Showers
A 2010 Orionid meteor, seen over Western Ontario, Canada. A waxing gibbous moon shines brightly at the left side of the image.
(Image: © NASA courtesy of Meteor Physics Group, University of Western Ontario)

Meteor showers occur when the Earth's orbit takes it through the path of a comet, which spews debris as it passes, like junk falling out of the back of a poorly-secured garbage truck. Bits of debris plunge through the Earth's atmosphere, and friction causes the debris to burn up, creating meteors.

2011 meteor showers.
(Image credit: RASC Observer's Handbook 2011 and International Meteor Organization)

Current meteor forecast models project a strong Draconid outburst, possibly a full-blown storm, on Oct. 8, 2011, according to William Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

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