Canadian astronomer Paul Wiegert announced at a meeting of professional astronomers in Canada that the annual Draconid meteor shower might produce unusually high peak meteor rates of 1,000 per hour on 8 October, 2011!
Update posted 6th October. Click here to read about locating and viewing the Draconids.
An astronomer at the University of Western Ontario, Paul Wiegerts specialty is solar system dynamics – conducting numerical analyses of the way objects in our solar system move especially smaller bodies like asteroids, comets and meteoroid streams.
Like most meteors in annual showers, any fiery Draconid meteors seen streaking across the night sky actually started in a meteoroid stream in space – a river of icy, rocky debris left behind in the orbit of a comet. The Draconid shower originates from the comet Giacobini-Zinner.
Known for over 100 years, the Giacobini-Zinner comet takes about 6.6 years to orbit our sun once. Astronomer Paul Wiegert, having analysed the movement of Giacobini-Zinner and its meteoroid stream has determined that conditions will line up just right in 2011 enabling us to see a spectacular Draconid meteor shower.
Can’t wait for 8 October?
The peak of the shower is extremely narrow and should last for only one hour. The 2011 Draconid outburst is expected to occur between 17:00 and 18:00 Universal Time – let’s hope for at least a little bit of dark!
The best locations from which to view the primarily northern hemisphere event will be Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.
One little drawback… maybe? The moon will be in a waxing gibbous phase on 8 October. A large bright moon can (not will) drown out a meteor shower.
Fear not. The shower is expected to continue to produce meteors, albeit at a reduced level, into the evening of 8 October so later on in the evening will still have a chance to see a stronger-than-usual Draconid meteor shower.
Set a reminder, cross your fingers and have your cameras on the ready!