Draconid meteor shower peaks from tonight - how and when to watch the spectacle

(Photo: Shutterstock)(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

Stargazers in October are in for a treat when a couple of meteor showers roll into Earth’s skies for their annual displays.

The first of those is the Draconid meteor shower, which peaks in the night sky early in the month.

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The shower is not one of the year’s most spectacular, but can still provide those looking skyward with more than 20 shooting stars per hour to enjoy.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is the Draconid meteor shower?

The Draconid meteor shower happens annually, and is active between 6 and 11 October.

As the Earth’s orbit around the sun takes it through the ‘tail’ of debris left by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner’s, tiny fragments of the comet hit the Earth's atmosphere.

These small pieces can be no bigger than a grain of sand, but as they burn up high in the Earth’s atmosphere, they can create bright streaks of light through the night sky – a ‘shooting star’.

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A blog post from the National Space Centre (NSC) says that there will be “five to ten meteors per hour”.

In previous years, Draconid meteor showers have had thousands of visible meteors per hour.

The NSC writes, “We’re not expecting any outbursts in 2019, but meteor shower outbursts are notoriously hard to predict, so you never know.”

When is the best time to watch it?

The Draconid meteor shower is active between 6 and 11 October, but it will hit its peak on the evenings of Wednesday (7 October) and Thursday (8 October) this week.

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Unlike most other meteor showers that are best seen in the morning, the Draconids are actually best seen in the evening, after the sun has set.

The sun will set at around 6.23pm in the evening.

How to watch

You don’t need to be looking in any specific direction in order to try and catch a glimpse of the shower.

The NSC writes, “Lean back, let your eyes adjust to the dark and watch the whole sky (it helps to have friends look in different directions).”

The NSC also recommends that you should try to find as dark a location as you can in order to view the meteor shower.

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“The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can away from city lights,” it advises.

Be warned though, this year a bright moon will block many of the meteors, but if the night is clear, this evening shower is well worth a look.

When is the next meteor shower?

If the weather doesn’t play ball for you and your view of the night sky is obscured by clouds, don’t worry. There will be more meteor showers to look forward to.

The next of note is the Orionids, which is active from the beginning of October, but doesn’t peak until later in the month.

This year, the peak falls on the evening of Thursday 22 October.

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