This time of year is expected to bring streaks of light to the stars during this transition into fall, which are being attributed to Draconid meteor showers. The showers are expected to take place from October 6-10, according to Earth Sky.
Draconids are related to the constellation Draco and they produce, at times, heavy meteor showers caused by a collision with the comet Giacobini-Zinner, according to NASA. In fact, due to its association with that comet, these meteor showers used to be called “Giacobinids.”
NASA notes that although meteor showers are typically associated with constellations, they do not come out of those constellations; come from the atmosphere above those constellations, however. The reason they connect these showers to constellations is that it “helps astronomers know where to look!”
What Is the Draconid Meteor Shower?
According to NASA, the “falling” or “shooting stars” we can expect to see during the Draconid meteor showers are actually meteoroids or tiny bits of dust and rock that are burning as they fall to the atmosphere. The trail of light that makes it appear as though the meteor is “shooting,” is actually caused by the meteor burning.
One of the more recent and dramatic instances of Draconids took place in 2011. Earth Sky reported that European observers could see 600 meteors per hour during that meteor shower. Bill Cooke, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Program Manager, said that the 2011 showers were so intense, they turned satellite with cameras or telescopes were turned away to avoid taking damage from oncoming dust and astronauts refrained from spacewalks.
The Draconid constellation is only visible from the Northern hemisphere, because it is circumpolar, which means that it does not set below the horizon and therefore can’t be seen from the Southern hemisphere, according to Space.com.
The showers will be observable in the early morning hours. However, Live Science reported that a big show is not expected this time around because the Earth’s orbit will not take it as close to the comet that causes meteor showers as it has in years where the showers were more visible.
Where Does the Draconid Name Come From?
In one article, the meteor shower is described as the result of “Draco the Dragon … spitting out meteors.”
Space.com reported that the name actually has roots in the constellation of Draco. The dragon ends between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper and the meteor shower that causes stars to appear as if they are shooting from his head. The head of that dragon consists of a trapezoid that consists of four stars, Beta, Gamma, Nu and Xi Draconis.
Harvard reported that 4,000 years ago, Draco’s star Thuban would have featured very prominently in the sky, leading humans to develop stories around it.
According to Harvard, one mythology related to Draco was that it celebrates Zeus’ escape from his father, Titan Cronus. According to that legend, Titan Cronus had been told that one of his children would dethrone him and to avoid this fate, he ate each one. Zeus tricked his father into swallowing a stone and turned himself into a serpent to escape. Another mythology is related to Hercules. In this story, Hercules — in his eleventh labor — was asked to steal fruit off of a tree from the garden of Hera, which was guarded by the dragon Ladon. In grief, Hera placed an image of the dragon in the sky to commemorate Ladon.