Meteor Showers October 2019: Draconids to Peak As Southern Taurids Produce Fireballs in the Sky Over U.S. This Week

Two meteor showers—the Draconids and the Southern Taurids—are set to peak this week, while another, the Orionids, will reach maximum activity later in the month.

The Draconids are expected to become active on the nights of October 8 and 9, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

This meteor shower is considered to be relatively minor, with just five to ten meteors visible per hour normally—although some exceptional years have seen much higher rates—AccuWeather reported.

The radiant of this shower—or the position in the sky where the meteors appear to come from—is located in the southeast of the Draco constellation, very close to the location of the faint star called Kuma.

While a "nice outburst" was visible last year, the AMS said, the Draconids are expected to produce no substantial activity this year.

The Southern Taurids became active on September 10 and will remain so until November 20, according to the AMS. Peaking on October 9 and 10, they are also considered to be a relatively minor shower.

"The Southern Taurids are a long-lasting shower that reaches a barely noticeable maximum on October 9 or 10," the AMS said. "The shower is active for more than two months but rarely produces more than five shower members per hour, even at maximum activity."

The Southern Taurids—along with their cousin, the Northern Taurids—are notable for being rich in "fireballs," which are essentially very bright meteors. In fact, these showers are largely responsible for the increased number of fireballs reported between September and November every year.

Generally, meteors are described as fireballs when their brightness exceeds magnitude -4, which is roughly the same as the planet Venus when it is seen in the morning or evening sky.

For the best views of these meteor showers, try to go somewhere away from light pollution with favorable weather conditions. After 3 a.m. local time, once the moon has set, is prime viewing time for those in North America, AccuWeather reported.

Later on in the month, the more significant Orionid meteor shower will peak on the nights of October 21 and 22. The Orionids have been active since October 2 and will remain so until November 7.

"The Orionids are a medium strength shower that sometimes reaches high strength activity," according to the AMS. "In a normal year the Orionids produce 10-20 shower members at maximum. In exceptional years, such as 2006-2009, the peak rates were on par with the Perseids (50-75 per hour). Recent displays have produced low to average displays of this shower."

Meteor showers are celestial events during which numerous meteors appear in the night sky, originating from what seems like a single location.

In the case of the Orionids, this debris comes from Halley's comet, while the Taurids are caused by material which originated from the comet 2P/Encke.

Meteors, commonly known as "shooting stars," are the streaks of light we see when small pieces of debris from comets or asteroids enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up at high speed. Before these small pieces enter the atmosphere, they are known as "meteoroids."

Most of the time meteoroids burn up before they reach the ground, but if one manages to reach the planet's surface it is known as a meteorite.

asteroid, meteoroid
Stock photo: Artists's illustration of an asteroid. iStock