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Draconid meteor shower: How to see it – and when it will peak. Picture: PA Wire
The Draconid meteor shower is set to reach its peak this week, and will be visible in the skies across the UK.
It’s estimated that about five shooting stars will be visible in the night sky every hour by Wednesday evening (October 7, 2020).
We’ve put together everything you need to know about the meteor shower – and how best to see it.
The annual “show” happens as the Earth passes through debris left behind by icy comet Giacobini-Zinner as it broke up when its orbit brought it closer to the Sun.
Tiny meteors made from the fragments of the comet burn up as the enter the Earth’s atmosphere – streaking across the night sky as “shooting stars”.
The meteor shower takes place between October 2 and 16, 2020, but it will peak on the night of Thursday, October 8, 2020.
The best time to watch the shower will be in the evening just after nightfall, unlike most other showers that are best seen after midnight.
Although it is not the most active of showers, in 2011 more than 600 meteors an hour were spotted.
Nasa said: “The comet orbits the sun once every 6.6 years, leaving tendrils of dust in its wake.
“Usually the Draconid meteor shower delivers no more than 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
“However, meteor specialists estimated that this year’s Draconid rates could top 600 per hour — that’s 10 per minute — under ideal viewing conditions.”
Unlike most meteor showers, the Draconids are best viewed in the evening, just after nightfall, and can vary from a few per hour to hundreds.
The display will be most visible in the Northern Hemisphere and is best viewed shortly after dusk, in clear skies and away from sources of light pollution.
Weather will be the biggest hindrance to a good view of the showers – a cloudy sky will reduce the visibility significantly.
The Met Office forecast for Thursday night (October 8), when the shower is set to reach its peak, will be variable with some scattered showers and cloud cover.
The best places to see meteors — and many other astronomical phenomena — are so called “dark sky preserves”, which include the UK’s Brecon Beacons and Exmoor and Galloway Forest national parks.
Astronomers advise lying on your back and using your eyes – no telescopes or binoculars – to watch a shower, as you want to see as much of the sky as possible.
NASA have also recommended giving your eyes time to adjust to the dark – so going outside half an hour before the shower is due to start.
“Try to stay off of your phone too, as looking at devices with bright screens will negatively affect your night vision and hence reduce the number of meteors you see,” the space agency posted in a blog.
The size of the Draconid shower is dependant on the nature of the Earth’s passage through the comet’s debris-filled wake.
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World news – GB – Draconid meteor shower: How to see it – and when it will peak