Draconid Meteor Shower 2018: What Is It, When Is It And How Can You Watch It In The UK And US?

The Draconid Meteor Shower will return this month, but the 2018 peak may not be as spectacular as it has been in the past and could only generate a few meteors per hour.

Draconids are also known as the Giacobinis, named after Michel Giacobini who discovered the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner from which the meteors come.

According to Space.com, skywatching columnist Joe Rao, it is worth looking up to the sky because in 1933, those in Europe saw up to 500 Draconids per minute.

Alongside this, US observers saw thousands per hour at the shower’s peak in 1946. Rao said that Draconids ‘occur only when the Earth passes just inside Comet Giacobini-Zinner’s orbit shortly after the comet itself has gone by.’

The 2018 Draconid Meteor Shower is not expected to be dazzling and NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke revealed that the meteors may not be noticeable over the normal background of 5-8 meteors per hour.

Cooke told Space.com that: ‘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.

‘Of course this can change – as people do their predictions, things change.’

What is a meteor shower?

According to The Telegraph, when the Earth passes through a debris stream that is occupying the orbit of a comet, a meteor shower occurs and a number of meteors are seen flash across the sky from roughly the same point.

Although they are often referred to as shooting stars, they have nothing to do with stars and the shower appears to come from a single point, which is known as the shower radiant. A meteor is formed after a particle, the size of a grain of sand, vaporises in the atmosphere when it enters at 134,000mph.

If the particle is larger than a grape, it will produce a fireball and will be accompanied by a persistent afterglow, which is referred to as a meteor train, ionised gas that slowly faded from view as it loses energy.

When is the next meteor shower?

In October 2018, there will be two meteor showers: the Draconids and the Orionids.

While the Draconid shower will only be shooting across the sky for a short period, from October 6 to 10, the Orionid Meteor Shower will be active from October 2 to November 7.

The best time to see the Orionid shower is on October 21 and 22, when the meteors will be at their peak and the shower will be at its brightest.

What is the Draconid Meteor Shower?

The Draconid Meteor Shower is considered to be the least-interesting meteor shower and are created as the Earth passes through the debris left by the 21 P/Giacobini-Zinner comet, which takes about 6.6 years to make a revolution around the Sun.

Also known as the Giacobini, the meteor shower comes from the constellation Draco the Dragon, which is where the name Draconids originates from. The easiest way to spot the shower is to look out for the constellation’s brightest stars, Eltanin and Rastaban.

When is the Draconid Meteor Shower?

The Draconid Meteor Shower will be darting across our skies from October 2 to 16, but the best day to see the shower is at dusk on Monday, October 8.

How to watch the Draconid Meteor Shower in the UK

According to Royal Museums Greenwich, it is advisable to find somewhere with dark skies, a clear horizon and little light pollution.

Alongside this, there is no advantage to using binoculars or a telescope so observers are able to look up unaided in order to take in the widest possible view of the sky.

The best places in the UK include the renowned stargazing locations, also known as the three ‘Dark Sky Reserves’, which are Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Exmoor national parks.

In addition to this, Europe’s largest ‘Dark Sky Park’, Northumberland National Park and the adjoining Kielder Water and Forest Park are also popular stargazing locations.

How to watch the Draconid Meteor Shower in the US

According to EarthSky, back in 2011, the Draconids were best seen over Europe, but less so over North America. It is not clear whether or not this will be the case for the 2018 Draconid Meteor Shower, but the shower will still be visible across the continent.

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