Friday, October 7, 2011

Draconid Meteor Outburst

DRACONID METEOR OUTBURST: On October 8th, Earth will pass through a network of dusty filaments shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. Forecasters expect the encounter to produce anywhere from a few dozen to a thousand meteors per hour visible mainly over Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. The meteors will stream from the northern constellation Draco--hence their name, the "Draconids."
Peak rates should occur between 1600 UT and 2200 UT (noon - 6 pm EDT) as Earth grazes a series of filaments nearly intersecting our planet's orbit. Analysts at the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office prepared this plot showing how the meteor rate is likely to vary:
If the maximum around 1900 UT reaches 1000 meteors per hour, the 2011 Draconids will be classified as a full-fledged meteor storm. The question is, will anyone see it? Bright moonlight over Europe, Africa and the Middle East will reduce the number of visible meteors 2- to 10-fold. The situation is even worse in North America where the shower occurs in broad daylight.
One way to enjoy the Draconids, no matter where you live, is to listen to them. The Air Force Space Surveillance Radar will be scanning the skies over the USA during the shower. When a Draconid passes through the radar beam--ping!--there will be an echo. Tune in to Space Weather Radio for live audio.
In Europe, an international team of scientists plans to observe the shower from airplanes flying at ~30,000 feet where the thin air reduces the impact of lunar glare. In Bishop, California, a team of high school students will launch an experimental helium balloon to higher altitudes, 100,000 feet or more, where the sky is black even at noon. Cameras in the balloon's payload might catch some Draconid fireballs during the peak hours of the outburst.
Stay tuned for updates as Earth approaches the debris zone.
Draconid resources:

Preview of October's Draconid meteor shower

The meteor shower won't be visible in the United States, so head to Turkey, Israel or the Greek Isles for the best views.

By Space.comMon, Sep 26 2011 at 3:13 PM EST

Meteor shower in Nevada Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images
The upcoming Draconid meteor shower in October will be impressive, but few people on the ground will get a chance to appreciate its true scope.
Saturday, Oct. 8

  • The Draconid (Giacobinid) meteor shower may have spasms of strong activity during good observing hours for Europe or possibly elsewhere. Various predictions put one or more outbursts between about 17:00 and 21:00 Universal Time (GMT). The shower's radiant is near the head of Draco, but the meteors themselves can flash into view anywhere in the sky. Unfortunately, the light of the waxing gibbous Moon will obscure all but the brightest meteors. See our article, A Mad Dash for the Draconids.

  • The bright eclipsing variable star Algol in Perseus should be in one of its periodic dimmings, magnitude 3.4 instead of its usual 2.1, for a couple hours centered on 7:49 p.m. EDT. Algol takes several additional hours to fade and to rebrighten.



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