Monday, October 8, 2012

Stargazers look forward to Draconid meteor shower surprise

Stargazers look forward to Draconid meteor shower surprise
2012/10/06 19:49:37
Taipei, Oct. 6 (CNA) Astronomy buffs are already getting their hopes up to be treated to a prolific meteor shower show on the evening of Oct. 8, when Draconid meteors are expected to reach a peak, the Taipei Astronomical Museum said Saturday.

The observation of a significant Draconid meteor shower -- which radiates from the constellation Draco in the northern sky -- has become a frustrating pursuit for many skywatchers because they have to rely on luck to see one, the museum said.

Known for its unpredictability, the annual celestial event can produce from dozens to thousands of shooting stars per hour, said museum researcher Chang Kuei-lan.

Chang said that's because the Draconids' parent comet, the 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, leaves uneven debris behind its orbit. That uneven debris forms the shooting meteors seen from Earth.

Making it even harder to observe the Draconids is that the peak time tends to last for less than three hours, which was why local stargazers could not catch last year's show of 600 meteors per hour reported by European astronomers due to the effects of sunlight, Chang explained.

"Taiwan hasn't had much luck with the Draconids," she said. "But who knows? We've got an advantage of having excellent observation conditions this year."

According to Chang, the peak of the Draconids will start at 7:15 p.m. and will not be obscured by a partly illuminated moon -- known as a "waning gibbous moon" -- since the moon is not expected to rise until almost midnight.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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