What you need to know about unusual light shows

The Draconid meteor shower is expected to take place between October 6th and 10th – a celestial light show known for being temperamental and fickle.

Meteor showers are celestial events that occur when Earth passes streams of cosmic debris left behind by comets and, in some rare cases, asteroids. Numerous meteors can be seen during these events, streaking across the sky and appearing to emanate from a single point known as the radiant.

Meteors — colloquially called shooting stars — are the streaks of light we see in the sky when tiny fragments of space debris burn up in Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.

The Draconids is an erratic, relatively quiet meteor shower that produces very strong activity on rare occasions.

The Draconids are only active for a relatively short period of time – their normal limits are between October 6th and 10th, according to the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London, UK. In comparison, many other meteor showers last several weeks.

The date of maximum activity is October 8, but high meteor rates are not expected this year, according to the International Meteor Organization (IMO) calendar. The light from the nearly full moon will also be a major obstacle for those trying to watch the event.

Illustration of a meteor shower over hills
Stock Image: Illustration of a meteor shower. The Draconids is an erratic, relatively quiet meteor shower that produces very strong activity on rare occasions.

“This year [the IMO] states that no unusual activity is expected from the Draconids, so a theoretical peak rate of 10 meteors per hour is expected, which in practice means an observer could see four,” said Robert Massey, deputy managing director of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society, said news week. “But that’s complicated by the light from the nearly full moon, so casual observers don’t notice much at all,” he said.

Tania de Sales Marques, astronomer at the Royal Observatory, narrated news week: “The Draconids can be bright, but it will be difficult to spot them as the full moon will be there all night, illuminating the sky. We only expect a maximum of 10 meteors per hour at this year’s exhibition. “

Every now and then, the Draconids, best seen from the northern hemisphere, surprise with large numbers of meteors – up to 1,000 in a single hour.

“The Draconids are usually fairly quiet, with only a few meteors per hour, but only occasionally put on big shows,” Massey said. “For example, in 1933, an observer at the Armagh Observatory [in Northern Ireland] said they fell like snowflakes. However, IMO is not expecting anything out of the ordinary this time.”

The best time to see the Draconids is in the evening after dark – unlike most other showers, which are best seen in the early morning hours.

The Draconids are the result of the Earth’s passage through debris streams left behind by Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zinner. This object is a relatively small comet with a nucleus about 2 km in diameter.

“It will next pass perihelion — its closest point to the sun — in 2025, completing one orbit every 6.6 years,” Massey said.

Giacobini-Zinner is notable for being the first comet to be visited by a spacecraft when the International Cometary Explorer passed near it in September 1985.

The rate of meteors during the peak of the Draconid shower depends on which part of the comet’s tail the Earth passes in a given year.

https://www.newsweek.com/temperamental-draconid-meteor-shower-1-2-mile-wide-comet-set-peak-1747891 What you need to know about unusual light shows

Rick Schindler

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