Look up just after sunset, as soon as it gets really dark, to see as many as ten shooting stars per hour.
You’ll be viewing the Draconid meteor shower, which occurs when Earth passes through the stream of debris from Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. The shower is so-named because the meteors shoot from the radiance of Draco the dragon constellation.
Earth passes close to the orbit of Comet 21P around this time every year. Stargazers unexpectedly witnesses thousands of Draconid meteors back in 1933 and 1946, according to Space.com skywatcher Joe Rao, while European observers saw over 600 meteors per hour in 2011. The next ‘roar of the Dragon’ isn’t expected until 2025….but you never know!
The American Meteor Society suggest the notoriously unpredictable shower could be a little more illuminating for those of us in the northern tropics this year, with the waning gibbous moon helping with visibility, as it rises later in the evening. But stargazing is a bit like fishing…you throw out your line…sometimes you catch something, and sometimes you don’t.
It’s a great excuse to pull out your deck chair or a picnic rug, and head for the beach or the lawn, as far away from artificial light as you can manage. You don’t have to locate Draco the Dragon constellation to watch the Draconids-they buzz around all over the sky, lasting one to two seconds.
There are more meteor showers for stargazers to look forward to this month, with the Orionids visible over October 20-121 and the southern Taurids October 29 and 30.
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Featured Image Credit : Comet 21P Between Rosette and Cone Nebulas pictured in 2019 © Fritz Helmut Hemmerich