Draco the Dragon Spitting Stars

Draco
A beautiful 1825 view of Draco coiling around the north celestial pole, from Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London.

Draco the Dragon is now spitting out stars. Okay, they are meteors, also known as shooting stars. But they are coming from the constellation Draco and Draco is the Latin word for serpent or dragon.

This was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy. The north pole of the ecliptic is in Draco and Draco is circumpolar which means that it is never setting and can be seen all year from northern latitudes.

This is one meteor shower that you don’t have to stay up late at night or into the wee hours of the morning to see. the best time to look up is nightfall or early evening. No matter where you are on Earth, watch between October 6 and 10 (8 should be best). It will be a better view in the Northern Hemisphere, but Southern Hemisphere folks can also see some Draconids, too.

This year there is a competing bright evening moon and the Draconids are more modest compared to other meteor showers. Last year was better because it was a New Moon near peak Draconids time.

2018 was also when the Draconids’ parent comet (the much less dramatically named 21P/Giacobini-Zinner) reached perihelion (closest point to the sun) for the year and was actually closer to Earth than it had in 72 years. But you missed that, so get out there the next few nights.

Published by

Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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