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Draconid Meteor Shower: Outburst or Bust? - Explore

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Sierra Daily

10/07/2011

Draconid Meteor Shower: Outburst or Bust?

10-7-11 PerseidMeteors_Chumack
The photo shown is of summer's Perseid meteor shower. Credit: John Chumack

On October 8, lucky viewers could see 750-plus meteors an hour during an outburst of the Draconid meteor shower. Scientists are forecasting these intense numbers because they believe Earth will barrel head first into a debris trail left behind by Comet Giacobini-Zinner.

The timing, however, is not good for North America. The best estimates of when the outburst will occur is at noon EDT, with the peak of activity between 3 and 5 pm EDT -- daylight hours for us in the western hemisphere. But because the timing of these events is not a guarantee, it's still well worth a look for the chance to see the show of a lifetime. Go out after dark and face north. The meteors appear to come from a region around Draco the Dragon's head. Draco's tail trails between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper and its head curls up between the Little Dipper and the constellation Lyra with its brilliant star Vega.

For those located in more favorable locations, such as Europe and Africa, conditions still won't be ideal. The darkness of night will be partially marred by the glow of a fat gibbous moon. But again, it's definitely worth taking the time to look.

The full moon for October is on Tuesday the 11th at 10:06 pm EDT. This will be the most distant full moon of the year, because the moon reaches apogee, or its farthest distance in its elliptical orbit around us, a few hours later at 8 am EDT on the 12th. The full moon on October 11 is called the Hunter's Moon.

-- Kelly Kizer Whitt loves clean, clear, and dark skies. Kelly studied English and Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for Astronomy magazine. She writes the SkyGuide for AstronomyToday.com. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Astronomommy.

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