What Time Does the Draconid Meteor Shower Start Tonight?

The Draconid meteor shower is due to peak Friday evening (October 8) as Earth passes through the tail of the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

The shower is not usually a particularly strong one. The American Meteor Society classes the Draconid shower as a class III shower, meaning observers may only get to see one meteor per night, though possibly more.

This isn't a lot compared to the Perseid shower which tends to produce around 40 per hour, according to NASA.

Still, there is hope. While the Draconids are not typically active, they can sometimes be nothing short of spectacular.

At its peak in 1933, the Draconid shower produced meteors that could be seen at a rate of 500 per minute in Europe.

When does it start?

The reported starting date of the Draconid shower varies. AMS states the activity period ranges from October 8-9.

In London, Royal Museums Greenwich states the shower's limits are between October 7 and 11.

Astronomy site EarthSky states the shower is active between October 6 and 10.

Best viewing time

The Draconid shower will be best viewed at nightfall and early evening on October 8, EarthSky states.

This sets the Draconids apart from most other meteor showers. Most showers are best seen in the early hours of the morning before the sun rises.

Sunset currently occurs at around 6:30 p.m. across the U.S., but check online for your state.

It may also be possible to see some of the shower on the nights after the October 8 peak. RMG states that while the shower reaches its maximum activity between October 8 and 9; it might still be active up until October 11.

Where can you see them?

The Draconids occur in the northern hemisphere, meaning Europe and the U.S., as well as much of Africa and Asia, are geographically in the right place.

But there are other factors to consider. The best way to watch a meteor shower is to find somewhere with clear, dark skies with an unobstructed horizon and as little light pollution as possible.

Observers should let their eyes get adjusted to the dark. This means avoiding things like cell phone screens.

Using binoculars or a telescope is also not advised by the RMG. Just looking up with the naked eye should provide a wide view of the sky.

The shower should appear to come from the direction of the Draco constellation, close to the position of the star Kuma, which is also known as Nu Draconis.

Meteor showers like the Draconids occur when the Earth passes behind a comet. The comet produces a tail of icy debris which the Earth intercepts. These space rock chunks then burn up brightly in our atmosphere.

Meteor shower
A stock photo shows a meteor shower. The Draconids might not be as active as the shower portrayed here. wisanuboonrawd/Getty