Draconid meteor shower delights with high numbers of faint meteors

The radiant from which the Draconids appear to diverge is shown. The meteors themselves can appear anywhere in the sky. Screenshot from Stellarium.

The Draconid meteor shower delighted seasoned observers last night with a burst in activity lasting several hours. It followed the recent close approach of the shower’s parent comet, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

Meteor forecasters had been expecting a minor increase in numbers, but little more. However, it appears that hourly rates soared into the hundreds for a time, though they were largely faint and so only visible in dark skies away from streetlights.

A live graph plotting the Draconid meteor shower’s zenithal hourly rate (ZHR), which is the number for a single observer, assuming ideal conditions and an overhead radiant, is on the website of the International Meteor Organization. It shows that rates had risen to compare to between 50 and 100 meteors an hour at 20h UT, and soared to over 200 around midnight.

Expert advice was not to expect more than a modest increase in rates this year. But the reality of what happened shows that you should always keep an open mind and be prepared for the unexpected!

Visit the IMO website for updated information as more reports of the Draconid meteor shower come in. Paul Roggemans also has a detailed report on his Meteor News website.

Related: A simple guide to observing meteors

Related: How to photograph a meteor shower

Related: What’s in this month’s night sky


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