The Draconid meteor shower 2023 will be active between Oct. 6 and Oct. 10 and will peak around Oct. 8 and Oct. 9.
Viewing conditions for the Draconids are favorable this year as the moon will only be 19% illuminated.
The Draconids are caused by Earth passing through debris — bits of ice and rock — left behind by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner as it hurtles through the solar system, passing Earth once every 6.6 years, according to NASA Science. Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner last reached perihelion — or the point in its orbit at which it is closest to the sun — on Sept. 10, 2018, at 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT), just a few minutes after making its closest approach to Earth.
Daisy joined Space.com in February 2022; before that she worked as a staff writer for our sister publication All About Space magazine. Daisy has written numerous articles and guides for notable skywatching events including the Perseid meteor shower, the next solar eclipse and the next lunar eclipse.
In recent years, the Draconids have been relatively quiet, producing few meteors and no notable outbursts of activity — a far cry from the showers of old, when the Draconids produced some of the most impressive meteor showers of the 20th century in 1933 and 1946. During these meteor storms, thousands of meteors were spotted every hour, according to the U.K. meteor network.
Outbursts like those, and lesser ones in 1926, 1952, 1985, 1998 and 2011, seem "to occur only when the Earth passes just inside Comet Giacobini-Zinner's orbit shortly after the comet itself has gone by," wrote Space.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao.
The Draconids are sometimes called the Giacobinids, after French astronomer Michel Giacobini who discovered the comet 21 P/Giacobini-Zinner, according to Royal Museums Greenwich.
Where can you see the Draconid meteor shower?
Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to emanate. From Earth's perspective, the Draconids appear to come approximately from the direction of the constellation Draco, the dragon.
Despite its size and designation as the eighth-largest constellation, Draco is not especially conspicuous. The name is derived from the Latin term "draco," meaning "huge serpent," and the constellation snakes its way through the northern sky.
Right ascension: 17 hours
Declination: 65 degrees
Visible between: latitudes 90 and minus 15 degrees
To best see the Draconids meteor shower, go to the darkest possible location, lean back and relax. You don't need any equipment like telescopes or binoculars; the secret is to take in as much sky as possible and allow about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark.
If you want more advice on how to photograph the Draconids, check out our how to photograph meteors and meteor showers guide and if you need imaging gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.
When is the best time to view the Draconid meteor shower?
The best time to look for the Draconids is in the evening during the shower peak between Oct 8 and Oct. 9, when the shower's radiant — the Draco constellation — is highest in the sky.
Although peak viewing days are typically your best shot to see the sky filled with bright streaking meteors, you may still be able to catch the occasional Draconid between Oct. 6 and Oct. 10.
What causes the Draconid meteor shower?
This all-or-nothing shower is caused by the comet P/Giacobini-Zinner. The comet was discovered on Dec. 20, 1900, by Giacobini at the Nice Observatory in France. And later observed by Ernst Zinner on Oct. 23, 1913, according to NASA Science.
The little comet measures just 1.24 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter and takes about 6.6 years to orbit the sun.
Each time the "dirty snowball" returns to the inner solar system its nucleus sheds ice and rock into space into a vast debris stream. When Earth passes through the debris the "comet crumbs" heat up as they enter Earth's atmosphere and burn up in bright bursts of light, streaking a vivid path across the sky.
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Bailey, D. 2022 draconid meteor shower. UK Meteor Network. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2022, from https://ukmeteornetwork.co.uk/showers/2022-draconids
Draconid meteor shower 2022: When and where to see it in the UK. Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2022, from https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/draconid-meteor-shower-2022-when-where-see-it-uk
NASA. (2019, Dec. 19). 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. NASA. Retrieved Oct. 3, 2022, from https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/asteroids-comets-and-meteors/comets/21p-giacobini-zinner