Look Up Tonight

Ken AshfordScience & TechnologyLeave a Comment

The Dracoid meteor shower peaks tonight, as well as tomorrow night, and the 9th.

The annual Perseid meteor shower is bigger, but the Dracoid meteor shower is no slouch.  What's more, unlike the Perseid, it tends to peak in the evening hours (as opposed to the morning hours).

Also, Dracoid meteors are slower, so you tend to catch them with your eye quicker (before the fizzle away).

Tonight is a great night for watching the Dracoid meteor shower.  Clear skies are forecast, and the moon won't rise until late late late.

What to do?  Where to look?

Ideally, you want to be outside for a while, away from ambient lights (street lights, etc.), where your eyes can adjust to the dark.  Super ideally, you'll want to bring a blanket and watch for a while, but maybe you'll luck out and see one soon if you know where to look.

A clear view to the horizon (no buildings or trees) is best.

The constellation Draco (the Dragon) is in the vicinity of the North Star.  The meteor will radiate from Draco's "head".  For the best chance of spotting meteors, you need to find Draco's head.

From the Triad area, you generally will want to look high in the sky, slightly to the Northwest.  Here's what the sky will look like from Winston-Salem at 9:00 tonight (click to embiggen).  North is "up" on this map; west is to the right.


The green constellation is Draco, although I'm pretty sure it won't be green (or have lines) in the actual sky tonight.  If you can find the Big Dipper, Draco is pretty easy to find.

I've drawn a small yellow arrow point to the Big Dipper (which will be in the Northwest sky).  Drago is "above" the Big Dipper, as if it was being flipped from the griddle like a pancake, with its head facing the opposite direction.  (The red arrow I drew in points to the North Star, if that will help as a reference point).

As the evening progresses, Drago will get slightly lower and lower in the Northwest sky. 

The blue arrow shows from where the meteors will radiate (Draco the Dragon's "head").  Probably not best to look right at this area, since the meteors merely start there, but won't necessarily be seen.  Look instead about 10 degrees in any direction away from that area, and hopefully your eye will catch something.

And if it doesn't, there's always the 8th and 9th.