Draconid Meteor Shower

These next few evenings – October 7 and 8, 2018 – the fiery mouth of the constellation Draco the Dragon will be spitting out meteors, also known as shooting stars.

Draconids are predicted to produce the greatest number of meteors on the evening – not after midnight – on October 7 or 8. This shower favors the Northern Hemisphere. Just be forewarned. Even at northerly latitudes, the Draconids are typically a very modest shower, perhaps offering only a handful of slow-moving meteors per hour. But watch out if the Dragon awakes – which it might this year, given that the parent body of this meteor shower Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, is near perihelion – its closest point to the sun in its orbit!

The Draconid meteor shower produced awesome meteor displays in 1933 and 1946, with thousands of meteors per hour seen in those years. Seven years ago – in October 2011 – people around the globe saw an elevated number of Draconid meteors, despite a bright moon that night. European observers saw over 600 meteors per hour in 2011.

The Draconid meteor shower might offer an elevated number of meteors in 2018, too. To reiterate, that’s because the parent body of the Draconids, Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, reaches perihelion – its closest point to the sun in its orbit – less than one month before the expected peak of the Draconid shower. But you never know for sure with the Draconids, so it’s worth watching out for on the evenings of October 7 and 8. Just know that meteor showers are notorious for defying predictions, either surpassing or falling shy of expectation.

The only way to know for sure is to try to watch the shower.

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