Draconid Meteor Shower 2020

Draconid Meteor Shower 2020

29/09/2020Written by Malika Andress

In 2020, the Draconids peak on the night of 8 October, with 5-10 meteors per hour.

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Draconid Meteor Shower

Draconid Meteor Shower
Draconid Meteor Shower
Comet 21P Between Rosette and Cone Nebulas. Credit: Fritz Helmut Hemmerich via NASA APOD

Meteor shower alert! – the Draconids are coming to a night sky near you. In 2020, peak activity occurs on the evening of 08 October. This year, a bright waning gibbous moon will block many of the meteors, but if the night is clear, this evening shower is well worth a look.

The Draconids typically produce between 5-10 meteors an hour. These meteors are caused by the Earth passing through the debris left behind comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. As this debris – mostly made of small dust grains – hits Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, it heats up and disintegrates in flashes of light that we call meteors.

While the Draconids are normally quite a minor meteor shower, they have been known to produce spectacular outbursts of hundreds or even thousands of meteors per hour, as happened in 1933, 1946, and 2011. We’re not expecting any outbursts in 2020, but meteor shower outbursts are notoriously hard to predict, so you never know!

Unlike most meteor showers, the Draconids peak in the early evening, after sunset, rather than middle of the night.

When to view meteors

Credit: Stellarium

Credit: Stellarium

The Draconids are named after the constellation Draco the Dragon  as this is the direction from which they appear to originate. While the meteors originate from this point they can be best seen 30 degrees away from Draco, stretching across large sections of the sky. 

To view the Draconids from the UK, head outside after sunset on the night of 08 October.

Look up, keep an eye on the whole sky, and find as dark a location as you can!

In 2020, the waning gibbous Moon will obscure the fainter meteors, but the on a clear night, the Draconids could still put on a good show.

You do not need to look in any particular direction. Lean back, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and watch the whole sky (it helps to have friends look in different directions).

The darker the location the better, so find the darkest sky you can away from city lights.

As always in the UK, clouds can be an issue, but be patient.

You can look for the Draconids on other nights as well. This shower runs annually between 2-16 October.

Credit: Stellarium

Meteor Infographic

Meteor Infographic

Download our National Space Centre Meteor Shower Guide to make sure you are fully prepared to watch the Draconids!

Other upcoming meteor showers for 2020 include:

Comet of Origin: Halley
Radiant: constellation Orion
Peak Activity: 21/22 Oct 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 2P/Encke
Radiant: constellation Taurus
Peak Activity: 10/11 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Leo
Peak Activity: 16/17 Nov 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10-20 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 3200 Phaethon
Radiant: constellation Gemini
Peak Activity: 14/15 Dec 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 120 meteors per hour

Comet of Origin: 8P/Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Ursa Minor
Peak Activity: 21/22 December 2020
Peak Activity Meteor Count: 10 meteors per hour

Clear skies!