Draco the Dragon will be throwing out meteors, or as some call them – shooting stars. This is a shower that’s easiest to enjoy at nightfall or early evening, but not after midnight. Your location on Earth doesn’t matter but try watch as close as possible to the nightfall. You will be able to watch it from October 6th to 10th. The ideal evening to catch it is probably October 7. The Northern Hemisphere is favored by this shower, but viewers from the Southern Hemisphere may also capture some Draconids. Luckily, the waning gibbous moon won’t be visible until mid-to-late evening. Search for these meteors for a couple of hours, starting at dusk.
Even at northern latitudes, the Draconids are generally a very mild shower, throwing out just a couple of slow-moving meteors every hour. However, over the years, some outstanding displays have occurred. The Draconid meteor shower created an awe-inspiring display of meteors in 1933 and 1946, with thousands of meteors observed every hour in those years. People from Europe saw more than 600 meteors every hour in 2011.
2018 was a good year as well since the new moon was strongly aligned with the Draconids’ peak date. However, another occurrence also took place. The parent comet of the Draconids – 21P / Giacobini-Zinner – reached the perihelion in 2018, its nearest point to the sun, closer to Earth than it had in 72 years. These two factors contributed greatly to the Draconids outburst that took place in Europe, 2018.
However, no outburst is predicted this year.
But, meteor showers are infamous for challenging the most precisely crafted forecasts. Therefore, you cannot know for sure what’s going on in a meteor shower until you look at it.
By the way, 21P / Giacobini-Zinner is a periodic comet that comes close to the sun every six years and four months. Tracking this comet, and noting this October meteor shower, enabled astronomers to forecast the weather in 1915.
If you want to know more about the history of this shower, go to the Astronomy Abstract Service from the Smithsonian and NASA and find a 1934 report called The Meteors of Giacobini’s Comet by C.C. Oh, Wylie. It’s an interesting account of the famous meteor storm of 1933. To sum up: On the evening of October 7, the 202 Draconid meteor shower will likely be at its best. You can also try the evening of October 8.
Look out for these meteors as soon as the night falls, and use the hours when the moon is not visible at nightfall and early evening.