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Look up this weekend! Draconid Meteor Shower to light up the sky with 10 shooting stars an hour

Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through a cloud of cometary debris.  In this case, the Draconid meteor shower originates from the debris of comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner.  Pictured is the night sky above Russky Island during the Draconids

The Draconid meteor shower is expected to peak this weekend, sending up to 10 shooting stars flying across the sky over the UK every hour.

The annual display will be most visible in the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday (October 8), but meteors will begin to appear from tonight (October 6) and could be visible through Monday.

To get the best view possible, experts suggest finding a location with clear skies and away from sources of light pollution like major cities.

“While most other meteor showers are best seen in the early morning, the Draconids are best seen in the evening, after dark,” said the Royal Museums Greenwich.

Meteor showers are caused when Earth passes through a cloud of cometary debris, putting on a light show for viewers on the ground.

The Draconid meteor shower comes from debris from Comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner – a small comet with a diameter of 1.24 miles (2 kilometers).

Giacobini-Zinner deposits new pieces of debris every 6.6 years as it passes through its orbit through the inner solar system, and meteors form when Earth passes through this debris field.

Unfortunately, there is also a full moon this year around the same time, so viewing conditions will be poor.

Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through a cloud of cometary debris.  In this case, the Draconid meteor shower originates from the debris of comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner.  Pictured is the night sky above Russky Island during the Draconids

Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through a cloud of cometary debris. In this case, the Draconid meteor shower originates from the debris of comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner. Pictured is the night sky above Russky Island during the Draconids

The Draconid Meteor Shower

Draconid meteors are caused when Earth collides with debris thrown up by comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

The comet has a six-and-a-half-year-long orbit that periodically carries it close to Jupiter.

Rocks, stones and dust particles, which can be as small as a grain of sand, enter the atmosphere and friction with air molecules causes them to emit bright light.

The best way to view the spectacle is to get as far away from the light pollution as possible.

It’s best to see them in the evening rather than before dawn, because that’s when the constellation Draco the Dragon – where the meteors seem to come from – is highest in the sky.

You don’t need any special equipment to see the UK’s Draconid Meteor Shower – observers just need to look up unaided and get the widest possible view of the sky.

Generally, those in North America, Europe, and Asia are in the best location to see the Draconids.

The best places in the UK include the renowned stargazing sites, also known as the three ‘dark sky preserves’ – Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Exmoor National Parks.

However, you will need to find an area with clear skies if you want to have a chance of seeing shooting stars.

The Met Office predicts an autumnal mix of wind and rain for much of the UK over the next few days, with some interludes of calmer weather.

Saturday will likely be drier for the most part, with a chance of a few showers in the north.

“There will be varying amounts of cloud on Saturday with perhaps the best chance of clearer skies to the south and east,” Nicola Maxey of the Met Office told Mail Online.

However, she warned that the brightness of the full moon, which will be in the sky all night, could make viewing difficult.

“The main issue on Saturday night will likely be the full moon, if the cloud dissipates, which could make it more difficult to detect meteors,” she said.

The Draconid meteor shower is named after the constellation Draco.  It is best seen in the evening just after sunset.  Meteors fly in all directions across the sky when they arrive

The Draconid meteor shower is named after the constellation Draco. It is best seen in the evening just after sunset. Meteors fly in all directions across the sky when they arrive

TIPS FOR SEEING A METEOR SHOWER

Meteor showers are best seen with a good clear view of the stars on a cloudless night.

Try to find a place with dark skies, a clear horizon, and very little light pollution

Make sure there are no direct light sources in your eyes, so you can fully adapt to the local conditions and ensure that the fainter meteors become visible.

There is no advantage to using binoculars or a telescope; simply look up with your own eyes to enjoy the widest possible view of the sky.

Source: Royal Observatory Greenwich

The Draconid meteor shower takes its name from the constellation of Draco, which is its radiant point – the point in the sky from which the meteors appear to originate.

Draco is a long, winding constellation, easily visible to people in the northern hemisphere, in the northern sky. It sits above the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star.

Draconids are best seen in the Northern Hemisphere, although it is still possible to see them in the Southern Hemisphere, especially if they are close to the equator.

This is because the shower’s radiant point almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco in the northern sky.

The rate of meteors during the peak of the Draconid Shower depends on which part of the comet’s trail Earth’s orbit crosses in any given year, according to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

The Observatory describes the Draconids as “variable”, which means you can never be sure what kind of light display you’re going to get.

“In recent years, the Draconids have not produced any particular outbursts of activity,” the Royal Observatory Greenwich states on its website.

“However, in 1933 and 1946 the Draconids produced some of the most active exhibits of the 20th century.”

The Draconid meteor shower comes from debris from Comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner - a small comet with a diameter of 1.24 miles (2 kilometers).  The comet is pictured here by the 0.9m Kitt Peak Telescope on October 31, 1998

The Draconid meteor shower comes from debris from Comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner – a small comet with a diameter of 1.24 miles (2 kilometers). The comet is pictured here by the 0.9m Kitt Peak Telescope on October 31, 1998

The shower is named after the constellation Draco, where it appears to come from in the night sky, which can be spotted above the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star

The shower is named after the constellation Draco, where it appears to come from in the night sky, which can be spotted above the Big Dipper and Polaris, the North Star

WEATHER SHOWERS REMAINING IN 2022

  • Draconids – peak October 8-9
  • Orionids – October 21 peak
  • Taurids – November 12 peak
  • Leonids – Peak November 17-18
  • Geminids – December 14 peak
  • Ursids – peak December 22-23

It should be noted that 2011 and 2018 saw more Draconid activity than expected, so 2022 could be the year they put on a spectacular show.

The National Space Center says Draconids typically produce between five and 10 meteors per hour, but in past exhibits there have been thousands per hour.

As meteors made of ice and dust enter our atmosphere, they begin to burn, providing a light show for onlookers, but which means most never reach the ground.

The beautiful streaks seen in the night sky may actually be caused by cosmic particles as small as a grain of sand.

If the particle is larger than a grape, it will produce a fireball and will be accompanied by a lingering afterglow.

The Draconid Meteor Shower, sometimes referred to as the Giacobinids, is one of two meteor showers that grace the skies in October each year.

The other is the Orionids, which are expected to peak in the sky on the night of October 21, between midnight and dawn.

Explained: The Difference Between An Asteroid, Meteorite, And Other Space Rocks

A asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.

A comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much farther from the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns.

These debris themselves are known as meteoroid. Most are so small that they vaporize into the atmosphere.

If one of these meteoroids arrives on Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally come from asteroids and comets.

For example, if the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

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