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The Draconids Meteor Shower

As we enter Autumn, before things start getting too chilly, we have a last chance to enjoy the sight of Fall-ing stars. Earth will fly through the debris of comet Giacobini-Zinner, forming the Draconid meteor shower around October 8.

In 2018, try watching on the evenings of October 7 and 8, as soon as the sky gets good and dark. The moon will be a waxing sliver of a crescent, so it will set soon after the sun, and won't interfere with your skywatching. The Draconids have a reputation for being less than intense, but it's worth watching for the meteors anyway -- sometimes the Draconids can surprise you.

The best time to view any meteor shower is usually between midnight and dawn. Find a place with dark skies, and set out a sleeping bag. Climb in and watch. The meteors will appear anywhere in the sky, but their trails will mostly tend to track back to near the constellation Draco, which rises in the east at around midnight.

Why is this meteor shower called the Draconids? Well, if you trace each meteor track backwards, they appear to radiate from the constellation Draco. (At this time of year, Draco is low in the northeast sky at around midnight. This is not a coincidence.)

To view a meteor shower, find yourself a dark location (away from lights) with a good view of the sky. Although the shower radiant is in the eastern sky, you will want to view as much of the entire sky as possible. The meteors don't usually appear in the radiant itself.

Get a lawn chair and sleeping bag, and just "space out", taking in the night sky as a whole. Or, you might take the opportunity to drag out your telescope (or even just your binoculars) to view some astronomical objects, in between your meteor observations. With simple binoculars, you should easily be able to see Jupiter's moons. And Mars will also be up, to keep you company.

Don't try to use the binoculars or the 'scope to observe meteors -- they are too unpredictable, and move too fast.

You can find more details at the EarthSky Draconids page.

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