On October 7 and 8, the annual Draconid meteor shower, also sometimes called the Giacobinids, will reach its traditional peak. Usually, this is a moderate meteor shower originating near the constellation Draco, the Dragon. The Draconids have, on occasion, put on a spectacular show, notably in 1933 and 1946, when thousands of meteors per hour could be seen. In 2011, Europen observers spotted over 600 per hour!
The Draconid meteors are created by dust left behind by the periodic comet Giacobini-Zinner. During years of increased activity, the Earth passes through a denser stream of debris than usual.
What’s in store for the 2019 Draconid Meteor Showers?
Last year, in 2018, was a favorable year to view this shower because the Moon’s “new” phase closely aligned with peak. Additionally, Giacobini-Zinner reached perihelion, its closest point to the Sun, in 2018, coming closer to Earth than it had in 72 years.
Such is not the case in 2019, unfortunately; we have a bright waxing gibbous Moon to contend with which may hinder viewing of even the brightest meteors. But it’s still worth a look.
Where and When To Look
The evening of Tuesday, October 8th was the best day to try to spot some shooting stars but you can view them as late as the 9th and 10th. Prospective meteor watchers should concentrate their gaze overhead and toward the northwest part of the sky. Unlike the swift Perseid meteors of August, Draconid meteors are exceptionally slow-moving: only 13 miles (21 km) per second.
Normally, meteor showers are best viewed after midnight, but not in this case. The peak will occur during the afternoon for the central and western US. But it will be evening for those in the Eastern U.S. and Eastern Canada, who will have the best chance to see meteors. Head somewhere without light pollution.
Let us know if you spot them!
With contributions from freelance writer Jaime MacLeod and astronomer Joe Rao.