The Draconid meteor shower is an annual event which usually produces low rates of about 10 meteors per hour on the 8-9 October. However, in some years, when its parent comet is close to perihelion, it can produce spectacular storms. This year could be one of those.

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner is the comet responsible for the Draconids, also called the Giacobinids for that reason, and we have been keeping an eye on that comet for the past few months. It reached perihelion, its closest point to the Sun, on 10 September 2018, and so it is “possible” the Draconids may be more interesting this year. As always though it is very hard to predict what will actually happen, which is why we’re saying “could” and “may” and “possible”.

New Moon source:

The shower produced spectacular, brief meteor storms twice in the last century, in 1933 and 1946. Recent outbursts occurred in 2011 (ZHR of 300) and 2012. There are predictions based on comparisons with the 2011 shower and the comet’s tail position, that it could produce a ZHR of 20-50 round about midnight on the night of 8-9 October 2018. The Moon is also new so won’t interfere at all.

The radiant is just to the right of the head of the constellation Draco. Draconid meteors are particularly slow moving (21 km/s) compared to other showers such as the Perseids (59 km/s) so they should be distinctive.

This could be a shower to watch – or not! Astronomy is full of surprises and disappointments, but in science a negative result is often as useful as a positive one, so keep watching.

If you manage to image or observe any Draconid meteors, why not post your images and observations to our Flickr group, Facebook page or Twitter feed.

Mark Phillips

Information source: International Meteor Organisation