Tonight’s Draconid 2023 meteor shower: How to see the rare peak this October

The Draconid meteor shower peaks tonight, and while it’s considered a light shower, conditions look reasonable. Another shower, the Southern Torids are also in full swing, while the Orionids also begin on October 2. So, if you’re lucky, you might find a Draconid, an Orionid And A torrid fireball!

With the Leonids shower in November and the Geminids still expected in December, it pays to plan ahead. We’ve put together a calendar of meteor showers from all years to give you the best chance of spotting some shooting stars.

When is the Draconite meteor shower in 2023?

Draconite Meteor Shower – Also known as the Giacobinides Meteor Shower, or simply Draconites – Launched on October 6, 2023 and only visible for four days till October 10.

Showers, though short-lived, will peak tonight from the evening of October 8 to the early hours of October 9.

When is the best time to see the Draconite meteor shower?

The best time to see dragonids is from the night of October 8th to the early hours of October 9th. A crescent moon rising at 00:54 in the UK on October 9 (01:54 local time in New York City, 02:07 in Los Angeles) will only be at 25 percent light, so will not interfere. with activities.

Unlike other meteor showers, which are best seen in the early morning, the Draconids are a bit different in that they are best seen in the evening. Good news for those who like to go to bed at a reasonable time.

This is because the radiant point in Draco is highest in the sky after sunset:

„The best viewing time for this meteor shower is in the evening, after nightfall, when the radiant point of the shower reaches its highest point in that constellation of the night sky at this time,” it explains. Dr. Minjae KimResearch Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Warwick.

How to Increase Your Chances of Spotting a Dragonid: Viewing Tips

You don’t need binoculars or binoculars to see a meteor shower. In fact, it’s better if you are Don’t Use them. Your eyes are the best tool to maximize your chance of spotting meteors — and get as wide a view as possible. Because shooting stars are spread across the entire sky, we cannot predict exactly where they will appear.

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„To fully appreciate this celestial phenomenon, minimal light pollution is best. Find a spot with an unobstructed horizon that offers a clear view of the stars on a dark, cloudless night,” says Kim.

To increase your chances of spotting a dragonid, go out in the evening after dark and allow your eyes to adjust for about 20 minutes. If you can, avoid areas with light pollution and find a spot where you can take in the sky as much as possible. Since the radiant is directly overhead, it’s a good excuse to pull out an inclined tool and get comfortable.

But if all else fails, the Taurid meteor shower is still going, and the Orionids have just begun (peak October 20-21), if you can, note which direction the meteors are coming from – you’ll get an idea. Whether you’ve seen a Draconid, Orionid or Taurid.

Where to Look for the Draconite Meteor Shower

Radius, the point in the sky where meteors originate, is in the constellation Draco the Dragon. As a circular constellation in the northern sky, the Dragon orbits Polaris, the North Star for the Northern Hemisphere. It weaves between the Big Dipper (the plow) in Ursa Major and the Ursa Minor (Little Dipper asterism), the dragon’s head at the base of the constellation Hercules.

It is high overhead and covers many areas of the sky (Draco is a large constellation). To find it, locate Polaris and the lip of Ursa Major on Ursa Major, then draw an imaginary line between the two. You’ll hit Gaiaser, the semi-regular pulsating star that forms the tip of Draco’s tail.

But even if the draconids are irradiated where they appear, they can be seen all over the sky. So, look up – try to take in as much of the sky in your view as possible. If the weather is nice – a tilt (and a cuppa) will do the trick.

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If you’re still struggling to find Draco in the night sky, using an app might help (check out our best astronomy apps).

What caused the Draconid meteor shower?

The Draconid meteor shower occurs — like most meteor showers — when Earth’s orbit passes through the path of dust and debris left by a comet, in this case, Comet 21/P Giacobini-Ginner. For this reason, dragonids are sometimes called giacobinids. As the rain reaches its peak, we pass through the thickest part of the dust stream.

With an orbit of just 6.6 years, Comet Giacobini-Ginner is a short-lived comet. It is a small comet, estimated to have a nucleus just 2 km in diameter. In 2018, the comet was discovered Carbon dioxide and the carbon chain are reduced to moleculesThis indicates that it may have originated in a relatively hot region of the solar system.

How many meteors can we see?

The number of meteors we can expect from the Draconite meteor shower varies. Most showers are relatively weak and scattered 5-10 meteors per hour (actually, it’s less).

However, every once in a while, Earth’s orbit intersects with particularly dense debris, resulting in very impressive showers. have also been Many meteor storms are associated with this shower; A large 500 Dragonids in 1933 per minute Found in Europe. If we go back to October 1946, there was a Draconid storm where people in Canada counted 2000 meteors – 50 to 100 per minute. Similarly, the years 1926, 1952 and 1985 also recorded less rainfall, but the rainfall has moderated somewhat since then.

Due to Jupiter’s gravitational interference, we no longer experience these Draconid storms. This interference, known as 'perturbations’ from the gas giant, has changed the comet’s orbit enough that the debris path no longer approaches Earth’s orbit.

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All in all, 2023 looks like a normal year where we can only expect a few meteors per hour. A late rise, waning crescent moon and a clear forecast mean conditions are fair, so it’s well worth it if you can.

What else can I see in the sky tonight?

Since the Draconids are few and far between, you may want to turn your attention to another target while you wait. A bright Jupiter* will be visible on the eastern horizon as darkness falls on October 8th, and will remain above the horizon throughout the night. As it approaches opposition on November 3, 2023, it gets even brighter, essentially giving us 'full’ Jupiter. It’s a beautiful sight, and with a pair of binoculars, you can pick out all four Galilean moons: Callisto, Europa, Io, and Ganymede gone dark.

While you’re watching those elusive dragonids, why not play hide and seek with Io? Jupiter eclipses (passes in front of) its moon Io every 1.77 Earth days (ie, one Io orbit around Jupiter). If you look at Jupiter after dark (6:23 p.m. from London, 6:26 p.m. in New York City, and 6:29 p.m. in Los Angeles) and sunset, you won’t see Io until it starts to peek out. From behind Jupiter around 9:30 PM, it will almost touch Jupiter.

Meanwhile, Saturn is high in the southeast sky, in the constellation of Aquarius.

* Jupiter shines at magnitude -2.69, brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky at magnitude -1.46 (the lower the magnitude, the brighter the object).

About our expert

Dr. Minjae Kim A Research Fellow in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the University of Warwick. He is an ESA project leader working on dust from comet 67P/Suriumov-Gerasimenko, collected by Rosetta/MIDAS, with the aim of understanding comet and dust evolution in the early Solar System.

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