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How to see the Draconid meteor shower

Draconid Meteor Shower 2020
Posted at 10:55 AM, Oct 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-08 10:55:16-04

Look up for the Draconid meteor shower this weekend, expected to peak October 8.

Unlike many meteor showers, the Draconids aren’t ones you’ll have to stay up late to witness because the shower is most visible just after nightfall and throughout the evening hours, rather than the early morning.

However, the Draconid meteor shower is on the sparse side. Expect to see a few meteors, about 10 at most, streak across the sky per hour.

The Draconids are 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 near the orbit of this comet in early October each year.

The Draconid meteors move slower than those witnessed during other showers, meaning they can be visible for one or two seconds. And the moon will be only 23% illuminated in its current phase, which will allow better visibility of the faint meteors once night falls.

Although this is a “sleepy” shower compared with 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, according to EarthSky.

The chance of witnessing an outburst of Draconids meteors streaking across the sky, called a meteor storm, can be a captivating possibility for stargazers. Meteor showers occur as our planet passes through debris trails left behind by comets and asteroids, which eject bits of rock and ice as they orbit the sun. Meteor storms can happen because debris from the comet is concentrated closely to the comet, rather than spread out, as Earth passes through the trail left by the comet.

The comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner completes an orbit of the sun every seven years, and the last time it made its closest approach to Earth, in September 2018, many reported seeing an outburst during the meteor shower. The next close approach won’t occur until 2025, but an outburst is always possible.

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 viewing conditions, 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.

If you’re underwhelmed by the Draconids or bad weather obscures your view, this year has a few more meteor showers in store.

Annular Solar Eclipse

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Meteor showers

Each of the remaining meteor showers expected to peak this year will be most visible from late evening until dawn in areas without light pollution. Here are the events’ peak dates:

● Orionids: October 20-21

● Southern Taurids: November 4-5

● Northern Taurids: November 11-12

● Leonids: November 17-18

● Geminids: December 13-14

● Ursids: December 21-22

Full moons

Here are the full moons remaining in 2023, according to the Farmers’ Almanac:

● October 28: Hunter’s moon

● November 27: Beaver moon

● December 26: Cold moon

Lunar and solar eclipses

People across North, Central and South America will be able to see an annular solar eclipse on October 14. During the event, also called the “ring of fire,” the moon will pass between the sun and Earth at or near its farthest point from Earth. The moon will appear smaller than the sun and be encircled by a glowing halo.

To avoid damage to the eyes while looking at the phenomenon, viewers should wear eclipse glasses.

A partial lunar eclipse will also take place on October 28. Only part of the moon will pass into shadow as the sun, Earth and moon will not completely align. This partial eclipse will be viewable in Europe, Asia, Australia, parts of North America and much of South Africa.