The Draconids can produce very high rates when parent comet is near perihelion – 2018 being such a year. Although high rates are by no means guaranteed, this shower will certainly generate a lot of interest in the media.
|Main Activity Dates||Oct 7-10|
|Peak Rates||Oct 8 – 9|
|Best Observed Rates||Around midnight Oct 8–9|
|Visibility each night (UK)||Visible all night|
|Moonlight issues at maximum||None: new Moon on 9 Oct|
The Draconids, also known as the Giacobinids (due to their link with Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner), produced meteor storms in 1933 and 1946, along with strong activity in 1985, 1998 and 2011. In most years very little activity is seen but in 2018 the parent comet will be at its closest to the Sun in its orbit. Predictions vary, but an increase in rates could occur sometime between 23h 30 and 00h 15m on October 8–9 (Mon-Tue), with predicted ZHRs between 15 and 50. However, these predictions are by no means guaranteed, so observe with an open mind! The absence of any moonlight will a bonus.
In 2017 many media sources covered the Draconids despite the fact that predicted (and indeed observed) rates were only 1 per hour! BBC Breakfast in particular claimed that observers could see dozens of meteors streaking through the sky, even in strong moonlight! However, the 2018 return will definitely be worth observing, if only to see what happens.
The Draconid radiant, at RA 17h28m, Dec +54, lies just to the right of the head of Draco (see the chart below). Draconid meteors are slow moving – a feature that should allow them to be readily distinguished from any sporadic meteors that might by chance line up with the Draconid radiant.
From the UK, the Draconid radiant is above the horizon all night and is highest in the sky during the early evening hours.