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Science and the Environment

Look Up Tonight: You Just Might See a Shooting Star

Draconid_meteor_Lyra_Italy_10-8-2011_Vittorio-Poli.jpg
Draconid Meteor Shower (Credit: earthsky.org)

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/look-tonight-you-just-might-see-shooting-star_69586.mp3

If you go outside this evening away from city lights and look up, you just might see a shooting star.  The Draconid meteor shower will peak just after nightfall.  It’s one of two meteor showers this month.  The Draconids are unusual—unlike most meteor showers, this one can be seen in the evening hours rather than after midnight.  And Dr. Mike Reed, astronomy professor at Missouri State University, says there won’t be a moon to interfere with viewing.  If you step outside this evening to try to see a shooting star, you should like to the north.

"Typically, the name of a meteor shower is the constellation in which they appear to come from, so they can happen in any part of the sky, but if you notice, the direction they move will all point back towards the constellation of Draconis," he said.

According to Reed, another meteor shower, the Orionids, will peak around October 21st.  That meteor shower can be seen in the east in the early morning hours.

Dr. Reed says meteor showers occur when the Earth’s path takes it through thicker parts of our solar system where there’s more dust.  That’s the result of comets passing by.

He says the comet whose tail will create the Orionid showers is a bigger comet, so that should be a more impressive show.

"They tend to be better. The Draconids tend to be faint, so they tend not to be as many," he said.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to see some shooting stars this evening.

Reed suggests going somewhere away from city lights.  If you can see the Milky Way, he says, you’re in a good place to watch a meteor shower.