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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 credit: 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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Geoff Gaherty
Starry Night Sky Columnist

Geoff Gaherty was Space.com's Night Sky columnist and in partnership with Starry Night software and a dedicated amateur astronomer who sought to share the wonders of the night sky with the world. Based in Canada, Geoff studied mathematics and physics at McGill University and earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Toronto, all while pursuing a passion for the night sky and serving as an astronomy communicator. He credited a partial solar eclipse observed in 1946 (at age 5) and his 1957 sighting of the Comet Arend-Roland as a teenager for sparking his interest in amateur astronomy. In 2008, Geoff won the Chant Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, an award given to a Canadian amateur astronomer in recognition of their lifetime achievements. Sadly, Geoff passed away July 7, 2016 due to complications from a kidney transplant, but his legacy continues at Starry Night.