Stargazers will get the opportunity to enjoy a brand new celestial spectacle the following nights, as the annual Draconid meteor shower will be peaking.
The meteor shower which astronomers and space aficionados will revel in actually consists in particles of debris from a comet, which intersect the Earth’s orbit.
Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which was discovered in 1900, orbits the Sun every 6.5 years, and around the time when it was first spotted by astronomer Michel Giacobini it expelled a stream of fragments.
These particles that have been left behind by the comet enter the Earth’s orbit on a yearly basis. As these remnants burn upon entering the atmosphere, they create illuminating patterns in the sky. To honor the man who discovered Comet 21P, the Draconids are also named Giacobinids sometimes.
The shooting stars will be especially bright and memorable on Thursday and Friday (October 8 and 9), after sunset . The interesting thing about Draconids is that they are more likely to be seen in the early evening, instead of late at night, as it happens with most meteor showers.
Provided that weather conditions are favorable, the shooting stars will be observed as originating from the top of the constellation Draco (the Dragon), near the Little Dipper.
This is actually close to the star triangle formed by Deneb, Vega and Altair, and some have claimed that it’s as if streams of light were emerging right out of the dragon’s mouth.
As EarthSky.org reports, the moon will only appear in the sky as a faint, waning crescent. Its subdued brightness will therefore make it more likely for the meteors to be admired without difficulty, in the dark sky, provided that there are no clouds on the horizon .
According to estimations made by NASA, throughout the meteor shower, every hour approximately 10 to 20 shooting stars will be observable, on average.
Those who are interested in witnessing this dazzling sky spectacle don’t require any special equipment. Telescopes and binoculars are redundant, since the meteors make their appearance in unpredictable patterns, and their trajectory in the sky can only be followed for a matter of seconds.
People should simply go outside and try to see the phenomenon away from city lights, which might obscure the view. At the same time, they should make sure they are dressed warm enough, especially if they live in colder regions of the United States, Canada or Europe.
Those who miss this celestial show still have a chance to catch a shooting star coming from Halley’s Comet during the Orinoid meteor shower, which will peak between October 21 and October 22.
Image Source: Flickr