Draconids meteor shower will see dazzling ‘shooting stars’ light up the night’s sky
Celestial spectacle peaked on Tuesday night but will also be visible after sunset on Wednesday and Thursday
The 2019 Draconids meteor shower is set to light up the night’s sky on Wednesday, 9 October, with up to 50 “shooting stars” expected to be visible every hour.
Named after the constellation Draco, the annual event usually peaks in the first week of October and is best viewed after sunset in an area with a clear sky.
It is caused by the Earth passing through a cloud of space debris left behind by Comet Giacobini-Zinner and is usually visible to people on the ground for around four days. Meteors burning up through the Earth’s atmosphere is what gives the impression of shooting stars.
How impressive the spectacle is depends on a variety of factors, including how close Earth passes inside the comet’s orbit.
The most spectacular October Draconids took place in 1933 and 1946, when thousands of meteors were visible each hour.
For this year’s Draconids meteor shower, a full moon will make it harder to see some of the duller meteors, while clouds over the UK on Tuesday and Wednesday will obscure the sky.
The sky is expected to clear later in the week, with Thursday night perhaps offering the best opportunity for stargazers.
The National Space Centre described the Draconids as hit or miss when it comes to the intensity of the shooting stars.
“While the Draconids are normally quite a minor meteor shower, they have been known to produce spectacular outbursts of hundreds or even thousands of meteors per hour,” the organisation wrote in a blog post.
“We’re not expecting any outbursts in 2019, but meteor shower outbursts are notoriously hard to predict, so you never know.”
While best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, the Draconids will also be visible to a lesser extent in the Southern Hemisphere.
The shower will also coincide with the more modest Southern Taurids, which will peak on Wednesday night and are best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.
AccuWeather astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel described the Draconids as a “good shower for younger stargazers, especially since the shower peaks on a school night”.
Later in October will see the arrival of the Orionid meteor shower, which is expected to peak on Monday, 21 October.