Where, when and how to watch the spectacular 2018 Draconid Meteor Shower

The Draconid shower is predicted to produce the greatest number of meteors on the evenings of October 7 or 8.


                            Where, when and how to watch the spectacular 2018 Draconid Meteor Shower

Stargazers across the planet are desperately awaiting the annual Draconid meteor shower to light up their night skies, considering the shower peaks in October.

However, experts are saying one must not get their hopes up for a breathtaking sky show, as the Draconids - peaking Tuesday, October 9, this year - are typically modest showers with only a few meteors streaking across per hour. Nonetheless, the event is still worth witnessing, and if you're lucky, the shower may even surprise with a spectacular display.

For instance, according to Space.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao, skywatchers in Europe witnessed up to 500 Draconids per minute when it occurred back in 1933. Then, in 1946, observers across the Western United States saw thousands of Draconids during the shower's peak.

According to Rao, the Draconids occur when the Earth plows through a storm of debris shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. He says that sizeable outbursts like those of 1933 and 1946 seem "to occur only when the Earth passes just inside Comet Giacobini-Zinner's orbit shortly after the comet itself has gone by."

 

A glimpse of the Draconid Meteor Shower captured on September 30, 2017. (Flickr)
A glimpse of the Draconid Meteor Shower captured on September 30, 2017. (Flickr)

 

Having said that, experts say such a close pass will not occur this year, hence the lower expectations. Furthermore, the meteors will most likely not be noticeable over the normal background of just 5-8 meteors per hour, according to NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke.

"The Draconids are one of those showers where you either see a bunch of them or none of them, and no outburst is predicted this year, so Draconid activity is expected to be extremely weak; not even noticeable to the casual observer," Cooke told Space.com. "Of course, this can change - as people do their predictions, things change. I'll keep you posted if they do," he added.

While most meteor showers are best visible in the early morning hours, one must start observing in the evening this weekend to maximize their Draconid experience. This is because the shower's "radiant" (the point from which meteors appear to fan out, in this case, the constellation Draco) is highest in the sky right after nightfall.

The Draconid experience in the UK

If you're in the city, it is advisable to find a place with dark skies, a clear horizon, and minimum light pollution, according to Royal Museums Greenwich. Observers are also advised to look up unaided - without using binoculars or a telescope - as that would enable the widest possible view of the night sky.

The well-known stargazing locations are the best places to view the phenomenon, including Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, and Exmoor national parks - the three "Dark Sky Reserves" - as well as Europe’s largest "Dark Sky Park," Northumberland National Park and the adjoining Kielder Water and Forest Park.

The Draconid experience in the US

While in 2011 the Draconids were best visible from Europe and not North America, it is unclear whether the same will be the case for this year's Draconid Meteor Shower, according to EarthSky. However, experts say the shower will still be visible across the continent.

Daily Mail has listed the major meteor showers of 2018

January 3: The Quadrantids

April 22: The Lyrids

May 6: The Eta Aquariids

July 29: The Delta Aquariids

August 12–13: The Perseids

October 21: The Orionids

November 5: The Southern Taurids

November 18: The Leonids

December 14: The Geminids

December 22: The Ursids