The Draconids are on a crash course for Earth. Though it sounds like the tag line for an alien invasion movie, it's actually a meteors shower scheduled to hit Earth's atmosphere Oct. 8 and 9.
In a typical shower, observers can expect to see about 10 meteors per hour, but this year may yield hundreds per hour (some reports say up to 750 per hour). However, peak hours of the shower are supposed to occur during the day for North American observers. Also the moon will be nearly full Oct. 8, which also makes for bad viewing conditions.
The meteors are the cosmic crumbs of the Giacobini-Zinner Comet, which the comet sloughs off when it whizzes around our solar system. The Giacobini-Zinner Comet is on a 6.6-year orbit around the sun, and its farthest point from the sun takes it just outside of Jupiter's orbit.
Meteor showers are produced when the comet's debris hits Earth's atmosphere. That is where most meteors are vaporized by the heat of entry, producing those beautiful streaks of light we are all familiar with. So most of the falling space rocks won't hit the ground to become meteorites.
On some planes of the solar system, the clouds of debris are thicker than others, thus there are more meteor for Earth's atmosphere to interact with. The Draconids were responsible for some magnificent light shows in the past.
In 1933 Europeans reported seeing more than 6,000 meteors per hour, or 480 per minute. And in 1946 the show was best in America, though a bright full moon and widespread cloud cover obscured most observations. However, in clear skied areas, on-lookers reported 50 to 100 meteors per minute.
Earth is currently entering that dense cluster of material again, so scientists predict a greater number of meteors. Reports have been varied, but scientists predict brief outburst of several hundred meteors per hour that will peak Oct 8. However, the bad news, once again, is that the best time for the meteor show will be 4 to 4:30 p.m. EDT and a bright gibbous moon (on its way to the full moon Oct. 11) will make the light trails hard to see.
If you are hoping to catch some falling stars try to face away from the moon and look towards the darkest parts of the sky. You won't need any special equipment to see them, so just keep your eyes peeled up.