Get ready for the Draconids

There is the possibility of an unusual outburst of Draconid meteors on the evening of Saturday, 8 October 2011.  The meteors are connected with periodic comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, so the shower is also known as the Giacobinids.

The Earth intersects a number of dust trails laid down by the parent comet during the evening of 8 October.

The first and most probably weaker outburst, due to a number of rather old trails, is likely to occur sometime after 16h UT, but the timing is uncertain and will favour observers in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

A second and more likely stronger outburst is possible sometime between 19h and 21h UT but the outburst, if it occurs, is likely to be sharp and brief.
Observations across all longitudes are important, but it will be essential for would-be observers to be far enough north to ensure that the radiant is at a respectable altitude above the horizon at that time.

The peak rates of these outbursts are highly uncertain, and no meteor storm is likely.  Estimated peak levels of meteor activity range from 40 meteors per hour to 800 meteors per hour.  The only way to find out what happens is to go out and look for yourself!

Unfortunately, there will be a waxing gibbous Moon in Aquarius, less than four days from full at the time of peak Draconid activity, so there will some interference from moonlight.  Observers should look to the northern half of the sky, keeping the Moon behind them.

The radiant of the shower will be  near  the star Nu Draconis in the ‘head’of Draco.  Draconid meteors are typically very slow moving, in marked contrast to members of showers such as the Perseids or Leonids.

From the British Isles, observers should go out as soon as twilight falls on the evening of Saturday, 8 October.

Observations will also be of considerable value on the evenings immediately before and after the predicted peak to provide a check on background meteor rates at this time. Let’s hope for clear skies everywhere on the evenings of 7, 8 and 9 October 2011, but particularly on the 8th!

The BAA Meteor Section would welcome any observations of the Draconid meteor shower this year from individuals or local society groups, using any of the observing methods outlined on the BAA website.  Visit  our Draconid Meteor Project page’.   Even simple counts of meteors seen within given time periods will be welcome.

It is intended that a summary of all the observations received, crediting all of the individual observers and society groups, will be published in the BAA Journal as soon as possible after the event.

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