These slow moving meteors are not the most exciting of meteor showers. In fact there may only be a few per hour. But there is a good chance that if you spot one, it will be bright and be very spectacular. If you are lucky you may even see an extra bright shooting star or even one that breaks up into multiple shooting stars as it enters the atmosphere.
Viewing the Meteor Shower
The peak for this meteor show is the 7th and 8th of October. Normally I would list about a month around a meteor shower to go shooting star spotting, but with the Draconids you really want to focus on those 2 days. Luckily there fall on a weekend.
For Australia, the best time to view the shower will be a bit after 7 pm. Look to the the horizon just a little west of north. You probably want to get up high as the meteors will be very low in the sky, around 0.7 degrees.
Remember that you want to let your eyes adjust to the dark or you won't have much chance of seeing anything. You will need to give your eyes about 10 to 20 minutes to adjust, so please, no checking your mobile phone every few minutes and no torches.
Photo courtesy of Steve Ryan at Flickr
The shooting stars appear to originate from the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon, but you don't have to worry too much about spotting the constellation itself as the shooting stars will spread out in all directions. If you do want to locate the constellation check out one of the many night sky apps for phones and tablets. Recently I have been playing around with Sky Map, but there are many others.
The Constellation Draco the Dragon (photo courtesy of Till Credner at Wikimedia)
Spotting the meteors is mostly a matter of finding a nice dark spot with an uninterrupted view of the horizon. Hopefully these shooting stars will be fairly bright, so you may be able to spot them without having to get too far from the city.
A waxing moon may interfere a little with your view, but you can keep a watch on the sky furthest from the moon for the best chance of spotting anything.
Photographing the Draconids Meteor Show
Even though there will only be a few per hour, with any luck, there will be some very bright shooting stars. So if you do manage to photograph one of the meteors it could be quite beautiful. You will need a DLSR or mirrorless camera and you will want to use the fastest lens that you have. With a tripod, point your camera at the sky and take lots of photos.
You will probably want to go with quite long exposures. Normally people will try 10-25 second exposures, but you might want to try longer exposures because there will be fewer shooting stars than other meteor showers.
Overall, just take lots of photos, maybe setting up your camera to just keep taking photos in the hope that you catch something. Your chances are going to be low, but if you are lucky you should get a great shooting star photo.
Photo courtesy of Mike Lewinski at Flickr
The Draconids are not the greatest meteor shower, but it can have some great shooting stars. This one may be for people who are already out in the countryside or for avid astronomy fans.
Another great article Roy, particulalry the notes about photography. I wiuld so much like to be able to take sucessful photos of the night sky but first I need to hop into a class to learn how to properly use my camera. I am a complete novice.
I realise from reading various forums that we are in probably the completely wrong place to view any of the Draconid meteor shower activity, but I have no idea what it could have been, does anyone have any suggestions?
Draco is a constellation in the far northern hemisphere - Draco is circumpolar within of the Arctic Circle (that is, never setting), and can be seen all year from northern latitudes.How people in Australia would be able to see this event???
Thanks for the informative article Roy. It's probably a silly question, but will we have as good a view over here on the East Coast? If so, the dates are going straight into my diary. I think I've got a perfect spot to watch it from and I'll have the camera (and coffee) ready for a l-o-n-g night. Thanks again.