Who Knows? Draconid Meteor Shower Might Surprise Gazers

Draconids cross the sky in 2009 | Photo: Scott Butner/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A meteor shower with a reputation for erratic displays just might reward stalwart stargazers over the next few days, and its peak is conveniently just at sunset.

The Draconid meteor shower, so named for its origin in the constellation Draco, is well known among veteran stargazers for its highly erratic peak fireball output. In some years the Draconids offer up no more than three or four shooting stars per hour. But in years when the Earth's orbit happens to intersect a denser part of the cloud of grit left behind by the Draconids' parent comet, that figure can jump dramatically. That's what happened in 2011, 2005 and 1998, with sudden spikes in shooting star frequency. In 1933 and 1946 the Draconids offered up thousands of visible meteors per hour.

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Which raises the possibility that this year's shower might be one of those years. The 2013 Draconids will peak the evening of Monday, October 7, and that peak will happen just after the sun sets. Sunday and Tuesday nights might be good as well. Who knows?

To see the Draconids in whatever glory they can muster, get yourself to a spot with relatively dark skies. You can consult KCET's ever-expanding set of regional stargazing guides for ideas. Find a comfy spot, lie down with the sunset to your left, and watch the skies above for an hour or three.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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