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Popular Astronomy Magazine - September-October 2017
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Sat, 07 Oct 2017


Meteors? What meteors? Fake News strikes again


Meteor storm artwork from Galaxy Picture Library

An example of what you will not see tonight

Amateur astronomers were surprised this morning to learn that a meteor shower is expected to deliver 'dozens' of meteors this weekend. The usual October meteors, the Orionids, are not due until later this month. None of the usual lists of expected showers show anything. So what's going on?

The shower in question is the Draconids. This shower occasionally produces very high rates, as in 1933 and 1946, when meteors poured from the sky in their thousands. In recent years, short-lived spikes of activity have occurred, but none is expected in 2017. These spikes occur when Earth encounters a clump of dusty material from the comet Giacobini-Zinner. 

The rate expected from the Draconids this year, according to SPA's meteor guru Tracie Heywood, is a trifling 1 per hour – and that's under ideal conditions. Tonight, a gibbous Moon will be in the sky virtually all night, making observation that much more difficult. 

Where did this story come from? One or two US astronomy sites have pushed the story, being desperate to provide clickbait. Sadly, no UK news source seems to have checked with actual meteor observers.

For more information on the Draconids, check our Meteor Section.

 

Added by: Robin Scagell