Possible Draconid Outburst in 2011?

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Draconid Meteors

Examples of Draconid meteors seen at dusk on October 8th, at 40 degrees north latitude

The Draconids are a meteor shower of short duration, active from October 6-10 every year. Normally only a small number of meteors are seen from this source each year. Occasionally the Earth passes close to one of the trails created by the parent comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner and an outburst occurs. In 1933 and 1946, meteor storms were produced by this shower when thousands of meteors were observed. On October 8, 2011, the opportunity exists that may produce several hundred Draconid meteors per hour. Between 1600 and 2100 universal time, the Earth is predicted to pass close to several trails created by comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner during the 20th century. This timing is favorable for Asia, Europe, and Africa, where the radiant will be visible at night. These hours are during the late morning and early afternoon for North America, where no enhanced activity is expected to be seen.

The Draconids is one of the rare showers best seen during the evening hours. The radiant, which lies just west of the “head” of Draco, lies highest in the sky as soon as it becomes dark. These meteors will appear to travel slowly compared to normal meteors we all have seen. They can be seen in any portion of the sky but will all have a path that lead back to the head of Draco.

Before making travel plans to Europe, there are a couple of factors that must be considered. First of all there will be a nearly full moon located in the constellation of Aquarius that evening. This will severely hamper observers trying to view this activity as the moonlight will obscure all but the brightest meteors. Secondly, unlike eclipses, this display is not 100% guaranteed to occur. While most predictions are favorable for a good display, there is at least one predicting the normal low rates. Most meteor enthusiasts believe that an average rate of at least 60 Draconids per hour will be seen at maximum as seen under transparent skies.

Observers in North American are encouraged to observe that evening as a few Draconids may be left over from the predicted outburst, at least more than one would see in a normal year. Be certain to face away from the the moon to enhance your chances of seeing any activity. The American Meteor Society is interested in hearing your results!


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