If you’re in a climate known for morbidly gray skies and pesky clouds, now’s the time to do your anti-rain dance. Tomorrow, October 7, marks the peak of the Draconids meteor shower. Best observed between sunset and midnight, this meteor shower is an annual affair that was particularly spectacular in 2011. Most meteor showers occur in the unholy hours before dawn, but with the Draconids meteor shower we’re lucky. After you start turning the lamps on in your home, but before you start considering what you’ll eat for your midnight snack, step outside for a moment. With any luck the skies will be crystal clear and you will be treated to the universe’s very own fireworks show.
The Draconids meteor shower is named after Draco, “the dragon” constellation, which is at its highest in the evening sky- right where the meteors seem to come from. The meteor shower is actually caused by the Earth’s course through a cloud of debris left by a comet, although it is much more romantic to imagine that it is due to a dragon’s fiery breath. There’s no way to say for certain how bright or how robust the shower will be this year, but there’s always the chance it’ll be something you won’t see again for decades.
Tomorrow’s Draconids meteor shower isn’t the only fall fireworks show we have in store for us this season. The Orionids meteor shower peaks on October 21 and the Leonids peaks around November 17. It’s pretty easy to forget that we live in an unfathomably giant universe when we spend most of our days- most of our lives- sitting inside. Do yourself a favor tomorrow evening- and then again on the 21- and then again in November. Stay up a little later than usual, watch some sparks in the sky, and appreciate how tiny and insignificant we all really are.