If you want to see âshooting starsâ this week just look to the northern night sky right after dark.
This week sees the peak of the Draconid meteor shower, an annual event that sees around 10 âshooting starsâ per hour appear in the night sky.
Like all meteor showers, itâs best seen in dark skies and requires patience, but while most such displays are best viewed after midnight, thereâs something very different about the Draconids.
The one can be viewed right after dark. In fact, itâs going to be at its best right through the nightâand thereâs a reason for that.
Hereâs everything you need to know about seeing âshooting starsâ during this peaks Draconid meteor shower.
Occurring from October 6-10, but peaking after dark midnight on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, the Draconid meteor shower is an annual event.
Itâs caused by a comet. Comets leave a trail meteoroidsâdebris and dustâas they travel through space. When a comet intersects Earthâs orbital path around the Sun it leaves meteoroids that Earth will inevitably have to travel through on its next orbit of the Sun.
The culprit this time is Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which was last in the Solar System in 2018 and will return again in 2025. So this is a meteor shower that gets frequently refreshed, though itâs a slight event compared to other meteor showers.
Meteor showers are always named after the specific point of the night sky that its âshooting starsâ appear to originate from. Although they can appear anywhere in the night sky as streaks of fast-moving lights, if you race those streaks back youâll get to a common originâthe meteor showerâs radiant point.
For this meteor shower the radiant is the constellation of Draco, the dragon or serpent, which is sometimes called the âDragon of the North.â
Thatâs because the constellation of Draco is circumpolar. That means itâs visible all night becauseâlike the Big Dipperâit appears to revolve around Polaris, the âNorth Star,â which Earthâs north pole points at. Consequently, Draco is above the horizon all night so its âshooting starsâ are, too.
Draco is actually tricky to find in the night sky despite it being âupâ all night since itâs made-up of stars that arenât too bright. Itâs a huge constellation close to Hercules, Cepheus , Ursa Minor and Ursa Majorâthe latter home to the Big Dipper.
So just look above the Big Dipperânow low on the northern horizon after darkâif you want to know where the âshooting starsâ are coming from. However, they can appear anywhere in the sky. Just make sure you are away from artificial light.
Draco, the boreal constellation of the Dragon, illustration taken from Johann Hevelius’s (1611-1687) … [+] star atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia, Gdansk, 1690. Milan, Biblioteca Dell’Osservatorio Astronomico Di Brera (Library) (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Noâtheyâre merely very tiny meteoroids that Earthâs atmosphere busts into as it orbits the Sun. They charge-up as they hot that atmosphere and release photons of light as they discharge.
There are two meteor showers in October, with the Draconids followed soon after by the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks in the very early hours of Wednesday, October 21, 2020. The result of debris left in the Solar System by Halleyâs Comet, expect to see about between 10 and 20 âshooting starsâ per hour during that one.
I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer writing about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel,
I’m an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer writing about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. I’m the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com and the author of “A Stargazing Program for Beginners: A Pocket Field Guide” (Springer, 2015), as well as many eclipse-chasing guides.
Meteor shower, Meteoroid, Draconids, Star, Draco
World news – US – Shooting Stars: Your âMost Convenientâ Meteor Shower Of 2020 Peaks This Week Near The Big Dipper