By contributing writer Marci
There is something about gazing up at the night sky. It’s so peaceful, serene, and awe-inspiring. Fall is the perfect time of year for star-gazing. The cool, crisp nights make for clear skies and great views of some summer and winter constellations.
October night skies have more than just constellations to find. Both the Draconid and Orionid meteor showers are in view during October, which is exciting for me. I just love a good meteor shower!
I bundle up the kids, pack some hot chocolate and a blanket, and head out to our meteor watching spot. It makes for good science and great family memories.
Draconid Meteor Shower
The Draconid meteor shower occurs each October. It will peak this year on October 9th although the dark skies caused by the new moon on October 13th may make for some good meteor viewing.
This meteor shower is created when the Earth passes through the dust debris left by Comet 21 P/ Giacobini-Zinner. The resulting meteor shower seems to radiate from the constellation Draco the Dragon, hence the name Draconid.
This year, the Draconid meteor shower may not be as spectacular as it has been in the past. Astronomers are only expecting 5 or 6 per hour, but you never know. Things may change. This shower has been unpredictably active in the past.
The special thing about the Draconid meteor shower is the fact that you don’t have to get out in the middle of the night to see it. Unlike many meteor showers that peak in the wee hours of the morning, the Draconid meteor shower is an evening event.
The best time to view the Draconid meteor shower is just at dusk. This is because the Draconids’ radiant point, the point in the sky where the meteor shower seems to come from, is highest in the sky just before nightfall.
Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid Meteor Shower is the second meteor shower that can be seen in October, peaking on the night of October 20th. This shower is caused by the Earth passing through the tail of Halley’s Comet. As the name suggests, the Orionids seem to radiate from the constellation Orion.
This year you can see the Orionid meteor shower the best from midnight to dawn (October 21). Astronomers project 20 meteors per hour.
How To View A Meteor Shower
For the best opportunity to see a meteor shower, follow these simple tips:
- Find a spot with a view of as much of the sky as possible. Fields, rural roads, and state parks are great options.
- Get away from city lights. The darker the location the better.
- Know the peak times for the shower that you are trying to view.
- Get the weather forecast and check the local satellite images. You can’t see meteors through cloud cover!
- Dress appropriately. To get the most from your meteor watching, you will probably spend a chunk of time outdoors. It can get pretty chilly. Dress warm. Hot chocolate or coffee might make the experience warmer and even more enjoyable.
- Take a blanket. We like to lie on the ground when viewing meteor showers. It lets us see most of the sky and saves us from sore necks.
Head outside this October for some quality family time watching nature’s own fireworks!