How to see the meteor shower Draconid without staying up this week

“Comet 21P” is the source of the Draconids.

NASA

This Wednesday and Thursday night can provide the best opportunity of the year to witness some falling stars or even a fireball in the sky without much effort or planning in the endeavor.

The Draconid meteor shower is set to peak on Wednesday evening at sunset. Most similar showers require staying up late or getting up before dawn to catch the best part of the show, but Draconids are the rare group that tends to show up strongly right after dinner.

Draconids are what the American Meteor Association considers to be variable meteor showers, which means that they are not usually exciting – they only produce a few shooting stars per hour at best – but they can produce vigorous activity on rare occasions.

Not much of a flurry is expected this year, but there is reason to hope 2020 Draconids are a little more vibrant.

Draconids occur when Earth passes through debris pathways left by previous visits from Comet 21P / Giacobini-Zinner. AMS indicates that our planet is expected to pass two paths of dust and other debris left by the snowball in space during its trips to the inner solar system all the way back in 1704 and 1711.

This will likely lead to an increase in activity and is particularly favorable to the eastern coast of the United States, where the peak activity will come as night falls and the Dragon Dragon constellation is high in the sky. Traces of Draconids will appear to originate around the dragon’s head, hence the name for the shower.

The shower should be visible to sky watchers in other parts of the world as well. Astronomer Dr. Tony Phillips estimates that meteorite fans should be able to see up to 10 per hour in the Northern Hemisphere. People south of the equator won’t be completely excluded from the fun, but they can expect to see fewer shooting stars.

To get a glimpse of the Draconids for yourself, plan to head outside once night falls on Wednesday and possibly Thursday as well. Stay away from all light pollution as possible to a location with a wide, open view of the sky. Lie on your back, let your eyes adjust and only watch if you can find Draco in the sky that’s cool, but you should be able to see meteors without focusing on a particular part of the sky.

If you happen to take a photo of anything amazing in the sky, don’t forget to share it with me On Twitter @ricCMack.

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