Behold, for an unusual outburst of Draconid meteors is about to streak across the sky. The Draconid meteor shower, which was last seen in 2005, is expected to peak with as many as 500 to 1,000 meteors per hour Saturday, according to NASA experts.
Unfortunately, the sun and the moon are expected to block the dazzling light show.
For those living in the United States, the Draconids will pass by in bright daylight, as the meteor shower will kick off at around noon Eastern Daylight Time and peak between 3 and 5 p.m.
With binoculars, chances to catch the brightest meteors still remain, according to Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the Draconids, look toward the north, between 10 and 40 degrees above the horizon, especially around 4 p.m., suggested Jenniskens.
The best positions to watch the meteors are the Middle East, North Africa, and some parts of Europe. England, Turkey, Israel, and the Greek isles would be good bets, according to Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office .
But don't be too pumped up: With the full moon expected Tuesday, the brightness of a waxing moon will disturb the view of most of the meteors, leaving only the brightest ones visible to the public.
While some forecasts suggest visible meteors every minute, others predict only a few per hour.
This variation occurs due to the uncertainty of the filaments of 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, the very source of the Draconids meteor shower. The periodic comet passes through the inner solar system every 6.6 years, leaving a narrow thread of dust that accumulates into a network of filaments. The Earth runs into the filaments every October, though in most years it slips through gaps between the filaments, according to Cooke.
The comet's orbit became more uncertain when it had a close encounter with Jupiter in the late 1880s.
The gravitational force of the planet changed the comet's orbit and introduced some uncertainty into the location of filaments.
So, at this point, even astronomers are not sure whether the Earth will hit or miss the outburst.
Occasionally, though, we hit one nearly head-on -- and the fireworks begin, said Cooke.
In 1933 and 1946, meteor storms of over 10,000 meteors per hour were observed. Lesser outbursts were seen in 1985, 1998, and 2005.
Meteor showers are as difficult to predict as rain showers, said astronomer Paul Wiegert of the University of Western Ontario, who estimated the Draconids to peak at 1,000 per hour this year. That would make it a meteor storm.
The Draconids have surprised us before, and they may do so again. I'd encourage anyone outside on the night of October the 8th to look to the northern skies, just in case.
A Draconid gliding leisurely across the sky is a beautiful sight, said Cooke. While the likelihood of encountering the display is uncertain, it is still worth a shot. Peek out your window or go to a place with a clear dark sky, and wish yourself the best of luck. Hopefully, the Draconids will greet you brightly.