Draconid Meteors Busting Out All Over!

A falling meteor leaves a trail of light as well as one of electrons that radar can “see”. Credit: NASA

There’s a dragon on fire and he’s burning up the sky!

The Draconid meteor shower, underway since this weekend and normally a weak shower, suddenly spiked today around 11 a.m. (CDT). The Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR), which “sees” meteors by the tracks of ionized air trails they leave in the upper atmosphere, is recording rates of 1000 per hour. That’s much higher than last year’s outburst and off the charts of this year’s expectations.

Since radar picks up even small meteors that go unnoticed with the naked eye, it’s not known whether all of these would be visible in a dark sky. But, hey, it’s easy enough to go out and have a look for yourself. This afternoon, European observers are favored, since it’s already night there. If you live in the U.S. or Canada , take a look this evening as soon as it gets dark. Face west or north for the best view and cross your fingers the storm continues.

Incoming meteors move so rapidly they knock electrons off air molecules. Turns out you can bounce radio waves off electrons like a ball off a wall. That’s why radar is an excellent tool for “watching” a meteor shower even in daylight.

Here’s a link to a live audio site featuring the sounds of meteors picked up by the Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas. Meteors sound like descending whistles of various pitches. I can’t guarantee the particular meteors you hear are Draconids, but if your sky is cloudy like mine tonight, at least you can still be there.

2 Responses

  1. Lori Stanger

    I saw an enormous Neon Green meteor (?) last night (October 8, 2012) at approx 8:56. To try to explain how large it looked, try to picture the size of a volleyball with a tail. Both the ball and tail was Neon Green.
    I am located in New Liskeard, Ontario Canada. I didn’t see it hit but someone else here did. He reported seeing a large explosion of green when it hit the earth.
    It was incredible!

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