Draconid Meteor Outburst: Lots of Radar Meteors, Few Visual

Update: Despite high hopes, visual reports of meteors were scant. By nightfall in North America the radar outburst was basically over. Even in Europe, where darkness came several hours earlier, few were seen by eye.

It's 5 p.m. EDT, and I just got off the phone with Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office:

A major outburst of Draconid meteors has been picked up by the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar, starting earlier today at 16h Universal Time. "The radar rates peaked at 2,200 per hour," Cooke told me. "They seem to be on the way down now but are still strong." It's still a higher radar rate than during last year's strong Draconid shower, when many meteors were visible.

The Draconid meteor storm of October 9, 1933, was seen all across Europe. Formerly called the Giacobinids, the shower appears to radiate from a point near in the head of Draco. This painting appeared in the 1959 edition of the Larousse Encyclopedia of Astronomy.
Lucien Rudeaux
Radar detects much smaller meteors than the eye can see. So it's not clear what this means for any visual display as night falls. It's been dark in Europe for several hours, and Cooke says, "A guy in the Czech Republic saw 40 to 50 meteors in about one hour. There appears to be some visual activity, but we're not getting many reports yet."

Draconid outbursts tend to be very short and intense, lasting just a few hours. If it's dark where you are, go look now! If it's still day, look as soon as darkness falls. Unlike most meteor showers, the Draconids are most active in early evening; that's when the radiant, near the head of Draco, is highest.

Please report what you see in the comments section below.

The Draconids (also called the Giacobinids, for the periodic comet that shed them, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner) produced great meteor storms in 1933 and 1946, and lesser outbursts in 1988, 2005, and 2011. But in most years the shower is much sparser or nonexistent.

One thought on “Draconid Meteor Outburst: Lots of Radar Meteors, Few Visual

  1. Toby Tomlins

    I’ve seen 1 very small and very quick, what I suspect to be a meteorite. I saw it as I was facing North to North-West of England. I’m pretty certain of this due to the sound radar over Canada picking it up, then leading to my sighing.
    Toby Tomlins.