Keep an eye on the night sky this week to see “the dragon” in action. The Draconid meteor shower is expected to peak on the evening of October 7.
However, stargazers recommend looking up on the evenings of October 6 and 8 as well, according to EarthSky.
Look out for the Draconid meteor shower in the early evening or nightfall. This won’t be one you have to stay up past midnight to see.
However, the Draconid meteor shower is on the smaller side. Expect to see a few meteors streak across the sky in an hour.
The Draconid meteor shower is created by debris from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. The shower gets its name because the meteors appear to be coming from the direction of the constellation Draco the Dragon.
Earth passes close to the orbit of this comet around October 8 each year. While this is normally a more faint meteor shower, experts have suggested this year may be more active, according to the American Meteor Society.
Astronomer Jérémie Vaubaillon has predicted that Earth will pass close to two comet trails produced by this comet. Astronomer Peter Jenniskens has predicted Earth will pass these trails at 01:25 UT and 01:57 UT on October 7, 9:25 p.m. and 9:57 p.m. ET.
This means stargazers along the East Coast of North America will have the best view. While people in the tropical areas of the Southern Hemisphere will also be able to see them, the shower will appear more reduced, according to the American Meteor Society.
The Draconid meteors move slower than those witnessed during other showers, meaning they can last one or two seconds. And the waning gibbous moon, meaning it’s in an intermediate phase where it’s becoming less visible, will rise later in the evening, which will allow better visibility for the faint meteors once night falls.
Although this is a “sleepy” shower compared to some of the larger showers later this year, the dragon can be full of surprises. Stargazers witnessed thousands of meteors per hour during this shower in 1933 and 1946, and hundreds in 2011, according to EarthSky.
The best way to view the meteor shower is by sitting in a reclining lawn chair or lying on your back and looking up at the sky with a wide view. No special equipment is needed, but if you want the best view, it helps to be as far from artificial light as possible.
If you live in an urban area, you might want to take a drive to avoid city lights, which can make the meteor shower seem faint. Camping out in the country can triple the amount of visible meteors, scientists from NASA also said.
And don’t forget to grab your camera before you head out. Meteor showers are a great opportunity for time-lapse videos and long-exposure photography.
More meteor showers on the way
If you’re underwhelmed by the Draconids or bad weather obscures your view, there are more meteor showers to look forward to.
The Orionids will peak later this month on the nights of October 20 and 21. They will be followed by the Southern Taurids on the evenings of October 29 and 30, but the moon will be 98% full, meaning these showers will likely be hard to see.
November has the Northern Taurids and Leonids, peaking on the nights of November 11 to 12 and November 16 to 17, respectively.
We end the year with the Geminids and the Ursids on the evenings of December 13 to 14 and December 21 to 22, respectively.
And 2021 begins with the Quadrantids meteor shower, peaking on the nights of January 2 and 3.