If you’re outside this evening and the sky is clear, look up. You could see a dragon.
Draco the Dragon, to be precise. And no, it has nothing to do with the character from Harry Potter. Rather, it's the Draconid meteor shower, which peaks at nightfall — not in the middle of the night, like some other night-sky offerings we’ve recently recommended — and it radiates from the dragon’s head, according to EarthSky.
If you can’t find Draco the constellation, never fear. “These meteors fly every which way through the starry sky,” EarthSky reports. “Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Plan to spend a few hours lounging comfortably under the stars.” If you can, point your feet north or northwest to view the shower, which was also visible last night.
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Even at its peak, this shower likely won’t offer dozens of meteors. “The Draconids can be lazy,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Some years, stargazers notice as few as three or four shooting stars an hour. If Earth hits a thicker cloud of dust, however, there’s a better show.”
In 1933 and 1946, the shower produced thousands of meteors an hour. Two years ago, 2011, was also a good year, with some observers reporting seeing up to 600 meteors per hour. “No one is expecting that this year,” notes EarthSky. But if you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you may see nothing at all. (Sorry, depending on where you live, the dragon may not actually rise above the horizon.)
“How many Draconid meteors will you be able count in the moon-free skies?” EarthSky asks. “No one expects a Draconid storm this year, but one can always hope!”
A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky on Aug. 12, 2013, in Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada. The annual display, known as the Perseid shower because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky, is a result of Earth's orbit passing through debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)