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Draconid meteor shower to streak across the sky

Andrea Stockton, staff writer
October 8, 2011 — A strong Draconid meteor shower is forecast this weekend. It poses a risk of meteor impact on orbiting spacecraft.

Constellation Draco
Constellation Draco

A meteor shower that happens every October is typically weak and attracts little attention. According to astronomer Andrew Yee however, this year could be a little more interesting.

“This is the Draconid meteor shower...Typically this is a weak meteor shower, with only a handful of faint meteors visible per hour. This year the Earth is forecast to pass through two or three dust streams that could result in several hundred meteors per hour at its peak,” explains Yee.

Yee adds that Draco is a large constellation with stars as bright as the brighter stars in the Little Dipper. During the early evening hours in October, the head of the celestial dragon is positioned above the dippers.

“The best estimate of the shower peak time is between 3-5 pm EDT on October 8. This favours locations in western Asia and Europe to see the peak display. There is uncertainty in the forecast and if it is off by a few hours later, the peak would happen after sunset in North America,” says Yee.

While the stronger meteor shower gives sky watchers something to look forward to, it also increases the risk of meteor impact on orbiting spacecraft.

“The current forecast of a strong outburst of Draconid activity raises concern to space agencies and satellite operators. The International Space Station and other satellites may have to be reoriented temporarily to minimize the risk of dust particle impacts to critical parts of the space vehicle,” says Yee.

Despite the tiny size of comet dust debris, officials say a particle with 1 mm diameter can cause great damage to a spacecraft.

Andrew Yee will be live on The Weather Network on October 8. If you have any questions about the meteor shower, post it on The Weather Network's Facebook page.

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