Draconid meteor shower 2022: how to see Draconids in the UK, when do they peak, what are they - best time

Meteors will be visible beginning around 6 October, but their frequency will progressively increase to a peak on 8 October

The Draconid meteor shower, which has been known to deliver hundreds of ‘shooting stars’ per hour in the past, illuminates the night sky every October.

So, when does this year's Draconid meteor shower peak, and what should you know to make the most of a potentially stunning celestial display?

Here is everything you need to know.

What are the Draconids?

The Orionid Meteor shower is caused by dust from the tail of the catchily named 21P/Giacobini-Zinner comet burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere, nearly 60 miles above our heads.

Meteor showers are caused by particles of ice and rock - often as small as a grain of sand - hitting the Earth’s atmosphere. The friction generated as the particle moves through the atmosphere generates light and immense, creating streaks of light in the night sky as the particles burn up.

This comet was first discovered in 1900 by the astronomer Michel Giacobini (the meteor shower was initially named the Giacobinids), before being found again by Ernst Zinner in 1913. According to Nasa, it orbits the sun every 6.6 years.

The Draconids are so-called because to observers on the Earth’s surface they appear to originate in the same part of the sky as the constellation of Draco.

When is the best time to see them?

The meteors will be visible in the night sky from around Thursday 6 October, but they will gradually grow in intensity until their peak on the evening of peak in intensity on the evening of Saturday 8 October.

While most meteor showers are best seen in the early hours of the morning, the best time to see the Draconids is in the evening, just after sunset.

For the best results, you’ll need to get yourself to as dark a location as possible, which will increase your chances of spotting an Draconid.

Thankfully, budding stargazers need not splash out on expensive tech to see the Orionids; they will be visible with the naked eye. You may need some patience though, and you’ll also need to be alert, with the shooting stars zipping across the sky at an incredible 41 miles per second.

How ‘spectacular’ will they be?

While the Draconid meteor shower previously produced some of the most spectacular astronomical events of the 20th century - including a ‘meteor storm’ in 1933 when 500 meteors per minute were seen in the skies above Europe - the event hasn’t been especially vibrant in recent years.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich, London says this is because the rate of meteors depends on which part of the comet’s trail the Earth hits.

As the Earth rarely comes ‘close’ (in astronomical terms) to the comet, the Draconid meteor shower is classified by Nasa as “weak”, with the space agency expecting 10 to 20 meteors per hour at its peak in an average year.

When will the next meteor shower be?

Don’t worry too much if you don’t get outside or it’s too cloudy where you live - the next meteor shower visible from the UK will be the Leonids, reaching their peak towards the end of the month, on 21 October.

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