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Draconids Meteor Shower October 2017

Home > Sunshine Coast > Free | Nature | Unusual Events
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
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Shooting stars in flight, early evening delight
The Dracondis is a unique meteor shower in that it is best viewed in the early evening. While at its peak, there will only be about 10 meteors per hour, it is worth looking to the sky once the sun goes down. For Australians, it is really only visible in the northern part of the country.

Photo courtesy of Mike Lewinski at Flickr
Photo courtesy of Mike Lewinski at Flickr


About the Draconids Meteor Shower

This meteor shower comes around every October as the Earth moves through the tail of dust and debris left by Comet 21 P/Giacobini-Zinner. The Draconids get their name from the radiant point of the meteors, which is the constellation Draco. They are also sometimes referred to as the Giacobinids Meteor Shower after the comet that causes them.

Photo of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner courtesy of Nasa/JPL
Photo of Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner courtesy of Nasa/JPL


Normally with the Draconids, you get around 10 to 20 slow moving shooting stars per hour. But occasionally there might also be a spectacular meteor storm with thousands per hour. While only a shower, not a storm, is predicted in 2017, it is always possible that the Draconids will give night sky watchers a pleasant surprise.

Most of the Draconid meteors are tiny, caused by nothing larger than a speck of dust. But sometimes you might spot one of the brighter shooting stars caused by meteors as large as a grain of sand which then creates a spectacular fireball. Something that sometimes happens during this meteor shower.

Viewing the Meteor Shower

Australia is not in the best position to view the Draconids. This is because the constellation Draco is not visible in the southern hemisphere, though the shooting stars will be visible in the northern part of Australia, so Sydney and further south are out of luck.

Also with this meteor shower the best time to view it is in the early evening, while with other showers you want to try and spot shooting stars from midnight to dawn. People in the northern part of Australia (Brisbane and up) should cast an eye towards the northern horizon just after sunset.

To view a meteor shower, you want to get away from bright city lights and urban light pollution. For the Draconids, you should be looking north and have a view of the horizon, so think beaches, mountain tops and so on. You want to avoid all lights, including mobile phones and camera screens, find a comfortable place to sit and watch the sky. It will take about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the darkness and be able to clearly see shooting stars.

Specific Details

The Draconids will be visible from October 6 to 10 with the best night for viewing them being the 8th. But the problem will be the moon. With the optimal viewing time being around 7 to 8 pm and the moon rising around that time on the 6th and 7th of October, you really need to wait until the 8th to view these shooting stars.

Where to view the Draconids in Brisbane

The simple answer is that you want to get out of Brisbane to avoid the city lights. You could try Mt Gravatt, but the views to the north basically look over the city where the main light pollution comes from.The northern end of the Redcliffe Peninsula might provide decent views without too much light.

Brisbane's hills and mountains are surrounded by too much light pollution to provide good meteor shower watching
Brisbane's hills and mountains are surrounded by too much light pollution to provide good meteor shower watching


Otherwise, you might need to go on a bit of a trip to view these. I am thinking that North Stradbroke Island would be a great spot for viewing these shooting stars, but then there are a number of hills around with views, such as White Rock at Ipswich.

Where to view the Draconids on the Gold Coast

On the Gold Coast, you might try your luck at Snapper Rocks. They have a great northerly view but may still be affected by light pollution from the buildings on the coast. Alternatively, the end of the spit could give you plenty of opportunity to avoid city lights with a view over South Stradbroke Island.

In the Hinterland, short of hiking up a mountain, you might prefer to head to Mt Tamborine where there are quite a few lookouts facing to the north. I think the best lookout would be the Knoll Section Picnic area.

Where to view the Draconids on the Sunshine Coast

The obvious place to go and look for shooting stars on the Sunshine Coast is the Glass House Mountains. Most of the hills that make up that region have views to the north. The two best are going to be Mt Ngungun and Wild Horse Mountain, but I think nearly all the ones that you can hike or climb up give you great views.

Otherwise, you can head to the coast where you have a view to the north and not too many lights. Noosa Heads National Park fits the bill though sometimes it has a reputation for being dangerous at night, so maybe Woorim Beach on Bribie Island would be better.

Where to view the Draconids in Townsville

With a northerly aspect, Townsville provides a lot of opportunity for views to the north away from the city lights. Yes, you can pop to the top of Castle Hill, but why not try the beaches past Palleranda or Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island.

Where to view the Draconids in Darwin

Try places like Lee Point beach or East Point.

Photographing the Draconids Meteor Show

Photographing a shooting star is one of the challenges that many people want to try. Taking that meteor photo is a combination of good equipment, using it properly and a great deal of luck.

You will need a DLSR or mirrorless camera fitted with the fastest lens that you have. Normally most lenses have a lowest (fastest) f-stop setting of f/3.5, which may be enough, but if you have a lens with a f/2.5 or f/2 setting it would be better.

Set up the camera on a tripod to take continuous photos on a long exposure. Most people try a 10-25 second exposure, but you could play around with longer exposures. The longer the exposure, the more of the starfield you will capture.

Basically just keep taking photos and hope you catch a shooting star in one of them. Most people find that they are lucky enough to get one good photo in an evening.

Overall

Usually not the most spectacular meteor shower of the year, but given that the Draconids are best viewed in the early evening it is worth a look. You should get an hour or two from sunset to the rise of the moon to view the meteors.
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Why? Shooting stars in flight, early evening delight
When: From sunset until the moon rises
Where: In the night sky to the north
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