October’s Draconid meteor shower peaks tonight

Weather Blog

Draconid Meteor Shower | COURTESY: Greg Hogan, Kathleen, Georgia

The annual October meteor shower, the Draconid, is currently active and expected to peak Wednesday evening (October 7th). Although not known to produce as many meteors as the other annual showers, it’s thought to be more ‘viewer-friendly’ as it peaks in the evening instead of the early, pre-dawn hours.

The Draconid meteor shower

The Draconid meteor shower occurs when Earth passes through the debris trail of the Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. This shower isn’t particularly known for a high number of meteors with most occurrences producing ~5 meteors per hour… but there have been years when the shower over-performed. In the year 1933 and 1946, the shower produced thousands of meteors per hour!

COURTESY: astronomers at Kitt Peak | Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner in Nov. 1998

Like other meteor showers, the Draconid gets its name from its radiant point, or the point at which the meteors originate from. In this case, it is the ‘Draco the Dragon’ constellation. The “dragon’s head” reaches its highest point in the sky ~5PM local time marking the time of the meteor shower.

Draco the Dragon constellation | COURTESY: EarthSky

This year’s viewing conditions

Tonight’s moon (waning gibbous) will be ~73% full… but won’t rise until mid- to late evening which gives a couple hours of ideal viewing. Our clear and quiet weather pattern here in Central Texas will be opportune for those looking to catch a glimpse of the meteor shower. A dark, open sky with little to no light pollution will produce the most favorable conditions just after nightfall.

Next annual meteor shower: the Orionid meteor shower which peaks Oct 20th-21st 2020.

For more information, visit EarthSky.org

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