Two epic meteor showers will take place this month. Here’s what you can expect:
This first is the Draconids on Oct. 7, 2016. The radiant point for the Draconid meteor shower almost coincides with the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon in the northern sky. That’s why the Draconids are best viewed from the Northern Hemisphere. The Draconid shower is a real oddity, in that the radiant point stands highest in the sky as darkness falls. That means that, unlike many meteor showers, more Draconids are likely to fly in the evening hours than in the morning hours after midnight. This shower is usually a sleeper, producing only a handful of languid meteors per hour in most years. But watch out if the Dragon awakes! In rare instances, fiery Draco has been known to spew forth many hundreds of meteors in a single hour. In 2016, the waxing crescent moon may somewhat intrude on this year’s Draconid shower. Try watching at nightfall and early evening on October 7.
This second is the Orionids on Oct. 20-22, 2016. On a dark, moonless night, the Orionids exhibit a maximum of about 10 to 20 meteors per hour. But, in 2016, the waning gibbous moon will be out during the morning hours before sunrise, when the Orionid meteors fall most abundantly. More meteors tend to fly after midnight, and the Orionids are typically at their best in the wee hours before dawn. These fast-moving meteors occasionally leave persistent trains. They sometimes produce bright fireballs, so watch for them to flame in the sky. If you trace these meteors backward, they seem to come from the Club of the famous constellation Orion the Hunter. You might know Orion’s bright, ruddy star Betelgeuse. The radiant is north of Betelgeuse. The Orionids have a broad and irregular peak that isn’t easy to predict. This year, 2016, presents a less than optimal year for watching the Orionid meteor shower. The best viewing for the Orionids will probably be before dawn on October 22, though in the glare of the waning gibbous moon.