WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2015 – Tonight’s fall sky is filled with exciting events starting just before sunset as the waning crescent moon aligns with the morning planets, with the Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Mercury just from just above the horizon and up into the darkening sky.
The Draconids, also called the Giacobini-Zinner meteors, are named in honor of Michel Giacobini who discovered the comet on December 20, 1900 and Zinner who saw them again in 1913. is a periodic comet, meaning that unlike the annual perseids, these are only viewable six years and four months.
Tracking this comet and noting this October meteor shower helped astronomers figure out how to predict meteor showers in 1915.
Draco the Dragon will breathing his fire or shooting stars, and predictions are that tonight will bring us the greatest number of visible meteor streaks. Exciting is that these showers will be visible right after nightfall, and the dimming crescent moon should not interfere as it won’t rise until the early hours of the following morning.
For those who are viewing from the middle and far northern latitudes the radiant for the Draconids is highest up at nightfall, so watch for the meteors as darkness falls.
Your best viewing position is lying down, feet northward; wait to see if Draco awakens and if he does, be prepared for a show that has had historic numbers of meteors per hours – back in 1933 and 1946, in the thousands; in 2011, over 600 per hour.
Those giant storms are not without explanation as the Comet Giacobini-Zinner was at perihelion, when it is closest to the sun, in 2011 creating a brilliant storm. However, in 1998, the Draconids only streaked at about 100 per hour.
The Perseids were offering fabulous shows in August, and maybe our luck will continue and we will see historic showers tonight.
The Draconid meteor shower will peak tonight; however, astronomers are calling for some activity on Oct. 9 as well.