An exciting meteor shower is set to peak this weekend giving stargazers a chance to glimpse hoards of shooting stars racing across the sky at once.
The Draconid meteor shower, sometimes referred to as the Giacobinids, is one of two meteor showers that grace the skies in October every year.
Viewers in Northern America, Europe and Asia are in the best place to see the Draconids – although those closer to the Equator may also be able to see few.
WHERE AND WHEN TO SEE IT
An exciting meteor shower is set to peak this weekend giving stargazers a chance to catch meteors racing across the night skies.
Viewers in Northern America, Europe and Asia are in the best place to see the Draconids although those closer to the Equator may also be able to see few.
The best way to see the show it by heading as far away from light pollution as possible and light from the rising moon could obscure the view for some people.
They are best seen in the evening, instead of before dawn as this is when the constellation Draco the Dragon – where the meteors appear to come from – is highest in the sky.
The Draconid meteors are caused when Earth collides from debris shed by comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.
The comet has a six and a half year long orbit that periodically carries it near Jupiter.
The rocks, stones and dust particles, which can be as small as a grain of sand, enter the atmosphere, and friction with air molecules cause them to give off bright light.
The best way to see the show is by heading as far away from light pollution as possible.
They are best seen in the evening instead of before dawn as this is when the constellation Draco the Dragon – where the meteors appear to come from – is highest in the sky.
‘Usually, this meteor shower offers no more than a handful of languid meteors per hour, even at its peak’, according to space website Earthsky.org.
‘But this shower has been known to rain down hundreds or even thousands of meteors in an hour.’
European observers saw over 600 meteors per hour in 2011 – a burst known as the dragon ‘awakening’.
In 2012 sky watchers saw up to 1,000 meteors each hour.
In 1933 and 1946, the Draconid outbursts were also huge – with observers reporting an astounding rate of 20,000 shooting stars an hour.
However, experts do not believe this year’s display will be so spectacular.
‘No outburst is predicted for this year, but then, you never know for sure’, writes Earthsky.org.
In 2015 the Draconid shower was captured in Sweden as a shooting star crossed the sky with the northern lights in the background. The Draconids move relatively slowly so are usually much fainter than the Orionid shower
The meteor shower is named after the constellation Draco, because the meteors can be seen when this constellation is highest
There are around 21 meteor showers every year, mostly between August and December.
A little later this month the Orionid shower is active
There could be as many as 20 meteors per hour when peak activity takes place.
Experts say that the Orionid shower, named because debris comes from close to Orion, is very distinctive.
‘They are easily identified … from their speed,’ authors David Levy and Stephen Edberg write in their book ‘Observe: Meteors,’
‘At 66 kilometres (41 miles) per second, they appear as fast streaks,’ they say.
‘Fireballs are possible three days after peak.’
The Orionid shower is expected to peak on 20 October.
A 30-year-old amateur photographer captured this stunning rare image of an Aurora with a Drancoid meteor tearing through it in northern Sweden, in October 2011