How to Catch the Draconid Meteor Shower as Fire Returns to the Skies This Month

That Perseids August may be the most famous meteor shower of the year, but October is a slumber season for shooting star sensations, which could produce more meteors overall throughout the month.

Big meteor showers like the Orionids and the Taurids are active, but first they are unpredictable drakonids peaking on Saturday night in 2022.

The Draconids are notable for several reasons. For one, they are best viewed when night falls in the evening rather than before dawn, which is the prime meteorite viewing hour for most other showers. Second, the Draconids (sometimes called the Giacobinids) aren’t considered a large meteor shower by the International Meteor Organization — you’re usually lucky enough to see five of them every hour — but they’re known for producing unexpected bursts of hyperactivity called meteor storms. In 2018, these showers of shooting stars spoiled observers with up to 600 meteors per hour.

An eruption isn’t officially expected this year, but it all depends on whether Earth floats through a particularly dense patch of debris left by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, which has happened without warning in previous years.

Here’s how most meteor showers work: At around the same time each year, our planet drifts through a cloud of debris left behind by a comet on one of its previous passes through the solar system. These individual small dust particles collide with our upper atmosphere and burn up, creating the glimpse across the sky we see from the surface. Sometimes pebbles or larger pieces of material can also create bright and more dramatic fireballs.

The Draconids don’t usually produce many fireballs, but it’s fun to hope for such sensations since the shower’s name comes from the constellation Draco, the fire-breathing dragon. Draconids appear to radiate in all directions from a point in the night sky near Draco.

However, it is not necessary to know exactly where Draco is in order to see Draconids, as these meteors will hurtle across the sky. If you want to add a few pro-chops to your shooting star-spotting game, you can use an app like Stellarium to locate the constellation in the sky, and then orient yourself in that direction while keeping an eye out for meteors.

But what’s most important for seeing meteors is to find a spot with minimal light pollution and an expansive view of the sky. Go outside after dark on Saturday and let your eyes get used to it. Then just sit back, relax, and give yourself at least an hour to see what you can do.

Although conditions are not ideal for viewing this year due to a nearly full moon this weekend, the promise of a potential dragon horde of shooting stars raining down in a Draconid outburst will lure the most dedicated night sky watchers anyway.

Don’t worry if things don’t work out: The Orionids are a large meteor shower that will peak in the second half of October. More on that later.

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