What exactly are meteors?
A piece of rock from a comet or asteroid that burns up in our atmosphere and does not reach the earth’s surface is called a meteor. Meteors are commonly called shooting stars but they aren’t stars and are usually very small, often only the size of a grain of sand. A solid chunk of debris that reaches the surface is called a meteorite.
On the heels of this summer’s solar eclipse, get ready for some unique meteor showers this week.
You might be able to see the shooting stars rain down for a spectacular meteor shower. It’s all part of the dragon constellation roaring into life this week and will be at its peak on Sunday, October 8.
The Draconids will come from the direction of constellation Draco – about 309 light years from earth. The name comes from the Latin ‘draconem’ which means ‘huge serpent’, due to the long chain of stars that appears to snake its way through the northern sky. The meteor shower is visible to the naked eye, so you might be able to see depending where you live.
The meteor shower happens when Earth passes through the comet’s tail – a long trail of debris.
Some of the rock and dust is knocked out of place and falls into the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up and creating shooting stars across the night sky. They are among the most variable meteor showers, ranging from tens to thousands of shooting stars per hour.
In 1933 and 1946, around 10,000 shooting stars could be seen every hour as the Earth passed through a very dense section of debris and created dazzling meteor storms. These large numbers are technically known as outbursts. In 2017, the peak is expected to be on Saturday, October 7, and Sunday, October 8.
Draconids are best seen in the evening after sunset and not in the early hours before dawn the next day. So watch out for them as soon as night falls.
Astronomers suggest first pinpointing the Draco constellation – as the meteors appear to come from the dragon’s head – but you should be able to see the shooting stars in all parts of the sky, providing there is clear weather.
However, we will have a full Harvest Moon on Thursday, October 5 and it will only just have started waning, so the glow from that will mean the sky isn’t pitch black.
But if there is an amazing display of hundreds or even thousands of shooting stars, you’ll be able to see them anywhere, even with a bright moon. To increase your chances of spotting the Draconids, you should aim for a spot away from bright lights – the darker the location, the better.
Watch out for them as soon as night falls.
Astronomers suggest first pinpointing the Draco constellation – as the meteors appear to come from the dragon’s head – but you should be able to see the shooting stars in all parts of the sky, providing there is clear weather. Get out and enjoy!