The Draconid meteor shower once again lit up the October night skies as Earth passes through a stream of dust left by comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.
Enthusiasts gathered for the spectacular show which peaked on the eve of Monday, Oct. 8. Because the moon also reached a new phase on Tuesday, Oct. 9, the moonlight did not interfere with viewing activities.
Those living in the northeast of the United States and the Maritime provinces of Canada were treated with a brilliant display. According to the American Meteor Society, watchers saw most activity at around 23:00 UTC on Monday and 1:00 UTC on Tuesday.
The Dragon Awakens
The Draconid annual meteor shower, sometimes also called as the Giacobinids, happens every Oct. 8. It got its name because the meteors look like they come from the constellation Draco, the Dragon.
It is not always considered to be the event of the year; The Draconid meteor shower offers only a few meteors per hour. The Orionid meteor shower, which also happens in October, is usually what generates the most excitement.
However, when the Draconid does flex its muscles, it offers some of the most amazing meteor showers. Hundreds of meteors appeared on the night sky in 1985, 1998 and, most recently, in 2011. In 1933 and 1946, thousands of meteors manifested in the night sky.
Most activity seems to occur when the Earth travels through the denser part of the comet's debris stream. This year, comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner reached its perihelion (its nearest point of orbit to the sun) on Sept. 10, which means there is a possibility that more meteors will be observed.
Skywatchers Out In Force For Meteor Shower
Hundreds of enthusiasts witnessed the annual phenomenon without even needing special equipment, just an open view of the sky. Unlike other meteor showers, the Draconid's reach its peak in the evening rather than after midnight. All skywatchers had to do was look up and watch the sky as soon as it got dark to witness the spectacle.
Draconid meteors seem to radiate at the head of the Draco near the stars Eltanin and Rastaban. However, the meteors themselves appear from any point in the sky.