Draconid Meteor Shower Peaks This Week

Draconid Meteor by Klofac
The annual Draconid meteor shower will reach its peak overnight on Oct. 8 and 9, 2015. This image by skywatcher Richard Klofac of the Czech Republic shows a Draconid meteor streaking over Klofac's garden during the October 2011 display. (Image credit: Richard Klofac)

Skywatchers have a chance to see some "shooting stars" this week with the annual Draconid meteor shower. The meteor display, which peaks overnight on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 8 and 9) is caused by the remains of a comet raining down on Earth.

Weather permitting, skywatchers can see the Draconid meteor shower radiating out from the constellation Draco (the Dragon) near the triangle formed by the stars Deneb, Altair and Vega. NASA estimates that, on average, about 10 to 20 meteors per hour will be visible during the Draconids.

What's more, according to EarthSky.org, the moon will be just a faint crescent, allowing for excellent views of the shower.

While the Draconids appear to be coming from the constellation Draco, in reality they are remnants of debris shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which orbits the sun once every 6.5 years. Around 1900, according to a NASA description, the comet ejected a stream of particles that intersects Earth's orbit, spawning the annual meteor display.

To watch a meteor shower, no special equipment is needed. Simply take a lawn chair, bundle up against the cold if you are in chillier parts of the United States, Europe or Canada, and sit outside watching the sky.

This NASA sky map shows the location of the Draconid meteor shower radiant in the northwestern night sky at 2 a.m. your local time on Oct. 9, 2015 during the shower's peak, which occurs overnight on Oct. 8 and 9. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

You do need to pick a viewing spot well away from city lights, which can reduce the number of meteors visible during the night. Binoculars or telescopes are not of much use because meteors travel unpredictably and typically only last a couple of seconds.

While a meteor looks spectacular in the sky, a shower like the Draconids does not have particles big enough to make it all the way down to Earth. These particles burn up high in the atmosphere and are generally slow moving, distinguishing them from other random meteors you may see throughout the evening.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace