Have you been seeing Meteor Stragglers? The October Draconids

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If you have been looking west after sunset, trying to capture the objects that are below the horizon as winter approaches, you may have noticed some meteor shower activity.

Last night (Oct 12) , our observing session was graced with a nice display of meteors or ‘shooting stars’ coming from the direction of the constellation Draco the Dragon. As we pointed the telescope in the direction of Hercules to view the Great Globular Cluster, M13, one streaked through the eyepiece.

Although the peak was supposed to occur Oct 7/8, we did get a decent number in the early evening sky. Since the radiant in Draco is highest at nightfall, this was a good time to see them.

Courtesy http://earthsky.org/tonight/legendary-draconids-boom-or-bust

As we learned from Night Sky : Meteor Showers, meteor particles are actually debris from the trail of a comet. As the earth’s orbit goes through this track, we see the particles burn through the atmosphere. They are not stars.

The Draconids are the debris track left by comet Giacobini-Zinner named after the joint discovers at the turn of the 20th century. It is interesting and fortunate for us that Comet Giacobini-Zinner went through perihelion (part of the elliptical trajectory closest to the sun, and hence earthlings) last year, 2011. This gives us fresh gravel to plow through this year 🙂

 

Courtesy Vittoria Poli – Draconid meteor seen from Italy on October 8, 2011 near the bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra.