Saturday, 7 October 2017

Skipping The Draconid Meteor Shower

The Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner may have been zipping around the Solar System for four or five billion years but it wasn't discovered until 1900 and it is this 1.2 mile wide comet whose debris we will be travelling through tonight to give us the annual Draconid meteor shower which is promising to 'light up the sky' to quote the media but when it comes to meteor showers, tonight's is definitely 3rd class.
A meteor shower is the result of the interaction between the Earth and a stream of debris from a comet and as the comet gets closer to the Sun, some of its icy surface boils off, releasing the trapped streams of particles of dust and rock.
This comet debris gets strewn out along the comet's path and as the Earth makes its journey around the Sun, its orbit crosses the cloud of comet debris.
The debris burn up in our atmosphere which is the bright flare that we see in the night sky and we have ourselves a meteor shower but the Draconid's are very much a poor relation to some of the other showers we get at other times of the year.
Of the major meteor showers, some have a very low-rate of meteors showers and the Draconids produces 5-10 meteors an hour meaning 1 every 10 minutes on average at its peak which is a long wait on a cold October night and you know you will miss some of them as you are pouring yourself a coffee or adjusting your chair.
My advice is if you are going to be sat outside gaining hypothermia, do it during a high rate shower as these promise a meteor every 30 seconds and these are the Quadrantids (January 4th), the Perseids (August 13th) and the Geminids (December 13th).
The next level of meteor shower come in at a meteor approximately every 3 minutes and are the Lyrids 9 (April 16-25), the Eta Aquarids (May 6th), the Delta Aquarids (July 27-30) and the Orionids (October 22).
The lowest rate meteor showers, the group tonight's Draconids is in, gives a meteor approximately every 10 minutes and includes the South Taurids (November 4), the North Taurids (November 12) and the Leonids (November 17) and are really only for the most dedicated.
Unfortunately, despite the hyperbole, the only way the sky will be lit up tonight is if the local chippie catches fire.

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