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Draconid meteor shower: how to see it – and when it reaches its maximum Image: Fil PA
The draconid meteor shower is expected to peak this week and will be visible in skies across the UK
It is estimated that around five shooting stars will be visible in the night sky every hour by Wednesday evening (October 7, 2020)
We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about a meteor shower – and the best way to see it.
The annual ‘show’ occurs as Earth passes through debris left behind by icy comet Giacobini-Zinner as it ruptured when its orbit brought it closer to the Sun
Tiny meteors made from the comet’s fragments burn as they enter Earth’s atmosphere – traversing the night sky like « shooting stars »
The meteor shower occurs between October 2 and 16, 2020, but it will peak on the night of Thursday, October 8, 2020
The best time to watch the shower will be in the evening just after dark, unlike most other showers which are best seen after midnight
Although not the most active of the showers, in 2011 over 600 meteors per hour were spotted
NASA said: « The comet circles the sun once every 66 years, leaving tendrils of dust in its wake.
« Usually, the draconid meteor shower does not deliver more than 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak.
« However, meteorite specialists estimated that this year’s Draconid rates could exceed 600 per hour, or 10 per minute, under ideal viewing conditions. »
Unlike most meteor showers, draconids are best seen in the evening, just after dark, and can range from a few per hour to hundreds.
The display will be most visible in the northern hemisphere and will be best seen soon after dusk, in clear skies and away from sources of light pollution
The weather will be the biggest obstacle to a good view of downpours – cloudy skies will drastically reduce visibility
The Met Office forecast for Thursday evening (October 8), when the shower is expected to peak, will be choppy with a few scattered showers and cloud cover
The best places to see meteors – and many other astronomical phenomena – are the so called ‘Dark Sky Preserves’, which include Brecon Beacons and Exmoor and Galloway Forest National Parks in the UK
Astronomers advise lying on your back and using your eyes – no telescope or binoculars – to watch a shower, as you want to see as much of the sky as possible.
NASA also recommended giving your eyes time to adjust to the dark – so get out half an hour before you start showering.
« Also try to stay away from your phone, as looking at devices with bright screens will negatively affect your night vision and thus reduce the number of meteors you see, » the space agency posted in a blog post.
The size of the draconid rain depends on the nature of the Earth’s passage through the comet’s debris-filled wake.
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