A pair of fall meteor showers this October

The Draconids and Orionids peak this month
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 11:33 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - We’ve been in a lull in the astronomical events department of late. That changes here in October with two meteor showers and a special alignment of two planets and our moon.

What’s great is the three events are spread out nicely. There’s about a week’s time between each of them. Without further ado, let’s dive right in!

1. Draconid meteor shower (October 8-9)

The first of the three comes this Friday with the peak of the annual Draconid meteor shower. It certainly isn’t the most talked about meteor shower as only lasts about five days per year, but it’s one worth venturing out to see.

The Draconid meteor shower peaks the night of October 8th.
The Draconid meteor shower peaks the night of October 8th.(WSFA 12 News)

That is especially true this year because the moon will set around 8 p.m. on the night the shower peaks -- this Friday, October 8th. Without any moonlight to wash out the meteors, the show will be better than most years.

You can expect to see around 10 shooting stars every hour from nightfall Friday to daybreak Saturday morning. However, your absolute highest chance of getting the best show will be during the evening hours.

That’s different from the other meteor showers we get each year because those typically peak during the overnight hours.

2. Alignment of Jupiter, Saturn and the moon (October 14)

This isn’t an overly rare or “crazy” unusual celestial event, but it’s a cool one worth checking out for sure. The two largest planets in the solar system -- Jupiter and Saturn -- will nearly align with Earth’s moon at nightfall on Thursday, October 14th.

The moon, Jupiter and Saturn will align on October 14th.
The moon, Jupiter and Saturn will align on October 14th.(WSFA 12 News)

The trio will be glowing and easy to spot in the southern sky all night long.

For an even better experience, consider using a telescope to zoom in on the two gas giants!

3. Orionid meteor shower (October 20-21)

The Orionids peak about two weeks after the Draconids. This is usually very nice shower to check out before the colder weather of winter settles in.

This year the Orionids will peak on the night of Wednesday, October 20th. The shower actually lasts for about a month annually from early October to early November as Earth passes through the stream of debris left behind by Comet Halley.

The Orionid meteor shower peaks the night of October 20th.
The Orionid meteor shower peaks the night of October 20th.(WSFA 12 News)

The peak night -- typically later at night -- is your best bet for getting a great show. That’s when upwards of 15-20 shooting stars per hour can be seen by skygazers. That’s assuming Mother Nature and the moon cooperate, of course.

Unfortunately the moon will not be playing nice here in 2021.

That’s because it will be nearly full and shining bright for most of the nighttime hours. In order to increase your chances of seeing a decent show, try venturing out and focusing your attention away from the moon.

Remember, as always, that for astronomical events like these it’s important to head out away from city lights. Once you get to a dark spot, give your eyes a solid 30 minutes to adjust, find a good line of sight between the trees and be patient!

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