There are a couple of interesting meteor showers to watch for in October: First comes the modest Draconid, which will warm you up for the more impressive Orionid later in the month. Here’s how to see them both from the Northern Hemisphere.
How to watch the Draconid meteor shower
The Draconid meteor shower will peak on Oct. 8 and into Oct. 9. It’s a convenient meteor shower, especially for parents, because the best viewing takes place right after nightfall on Friday, so you won’t have to drag your kid out of bed at four in the morning on a school night for the best views.
Because the moon is nearly new, the sky should be quite dark, but even with a darker sky, Draconid isn’t usually the most spectacular cosmic event. You can expect to see about five to 10 meteors per hour. Some years, though, Draconid puts on a show with hundred of meteors per hour streaking through the sky. Will it happen this year? Probably not, but it’s possible, and you won’t want to have missed it if it does.
Find the Draconid meteor shower’s radiant point
While you should be able to catch shooting stars all over the night sky, the radiant point of the Draconid shower is near the head of the Draco the Dragon constellation. To find it, first locate the Big Dipper (look north, about a third of the way from the horizon to the top of the sky) and then follow the point of the Dipper to Polaris. Halfway between the lip of the Dipper’s cup and Polaris is the tip of Draco’s tail. Follow its body up to the head, and there’s the radiant point.
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How to watch the Orionid meteor shower
The Orionid meteor shower is the most impressive cosmic show in October, with up to 20 meteors visible per hour. Peak viewing will be on Wednesday, Oct. 20, into Thursday, Oct. 21. The best viewing time is right before dawn, although Orionid meteors (caused by Earth passing through the debris left by Haley’s Comet) will be visible throughout the month.
Sadly, peak meteor-peeping coincides with the Hunter’s Moon lighting up the sky, so fainter meteors probably won’t be visible, but the shooting stars you do get to see are likely to be impressive. About half of Orionid meteors leave trails in the sky that last a few seconds.
Find the Orionid meteor shower’s radiant point
Although they will be visible all over the sky, meteors from Orionid seem to radiate from the constellation Orion, an easy-to-find group of stars. Just look South (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) for the three stars that make up Orion’s Belt, follow them upwards to the bright, reddish star Betelgeuse, and you’re looking roughy at the radiant point of Orionid meteors—but given the light of the moon, you’ll probably be better off finding a dark area of the sky instead of the radiant point.