The Draconid meteor shower will peak on Saturday with an estimated 750 meteors per hour, which is sure to impress observers in the Middle East, north Africa and parts of Europe.
But observers in the United States won't be so lucky this year, as the meteor shower will begin at noon ET and will be strongest between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET, NASA said, making it poor timing for those who were hoping to see a stellar performance.
The timing of the shower favors observers in the Middle East, north Africa and parts of Europe, said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. He has predicted that the usually tame Draconids will be very active this year.
Draconid meteors come from Comet Giacobini-Zinner, which stream out of the northern constellation Draco. They are some of the slowest meteors around, as they hit the atmosphere at 20 km/s. With such a slow pace, astronomers said this reduces any danger from the Draconid meteors to satellites and spacecraft. It also makes them easy to see.
The Comet Giacobini-Zinner swings through the inner solar system every 6.6 years, leaving a narrow thread of dust, which forms a network of filaments over time that Earth runs into every year in early October.
Most years, the Draconids are faint. But NASA forecasters and others said Earth is heading for three or more filaments on Saturday, and that these multiple encounters should produce a series of variable outbursts.
Most years, we pass through gaps between filaments, maybe just grazing one or two as we go by, Cooke said. Occasionally, though, we hit one nearly head on - and the fireworks begin.