Observing campaign : Draconids 2007
This year, the Moon will be absent of the sky during the Draconid activity period : that's perfect to cover the whole activity of this stream, even if nothing exceptionnal is predicted !
New on October, the 11th, the Moon will be no nuisance for Draconid (or Giacobinids) obervation. The radiant, located close to the head of Draco, will be circumpolar for mid Northern observers: it can thus be theoritically be observed all night long ! Practically, visual observers should prefer observing before 0h UT. The Draco, from the sunset on, will see its height falling down above the horizon, and it'll be at its lowest level at sunrise. The shower is then only observable under good conditions before 0h UT. At that time, you should face the region between Pegasus and Cygnus to get as much Draconids as possible. When the Sun is well-set, and thus the hWestern horizon is dark, you can also face Perseus to optimize your Draconid quest.
The Draconid source is periodic : it is a source of regular outbursts when the parent comet, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner (from which it gets its second name, Giacobinids) is close to perihelion. It happened last in 2005, July, and this year, ZHR rised to 40-50. Which was a quite modest outburst, compared to the thoudsands of Draconids that were observed during 1933 or 1946 outbursts, for instance !
This year, 21P/Giacobini-Zinner won't get close to the Sun, so no outbirst is predicted. However, it's always interesting to monitor this shower, even if no raise of activity is noticed ! Every observation, even negative, is a very precious piece of information to understan the dust density crossed by the Earth ! Moreover, the time for the maximum is hard to define, as it xas very variable from one year to another. Fortunately, the activity period is short : From October 6th to 10th. This allows, in two nights only, to cover half of the activity period observable from a given point. The mosy interesting part for observers happens between October 8th and 10th : those of you who would like to spend only one or two nights on this shower should thus choose between 8-9/10 and 9-10/10 nights, when the maximum of activity is more likely to occur.
One of the main characteristics of the Draconids, which should help all meteor hunter, is their extreme slowness... With an atmospheric reentry speed of 20km/s, Giacobinids are easy to identify, and should be hard to confuse with sporadi meteors that could accidentally seem to come from the head of Draco. This is very important, as the number of observed Draconids can be small (one or two per hour), and all sporadic meteor considered as a Draconid can quickly leed to wrong evaluation of the stream activity !
Every observing method can be employed. Visual and radar/radio observings are the easier techniques to use, as the weak rates won't favor photoastronomers. Radio observing should on the other hand, allow the coverage of the stream activity, even in daylight, which could be interesting before the Sun sets.
Clear skies to all !
Don't hesitate to tell us about your observing results !
Other active shower at the time (06-10/10) : delta-Aurigids (less than one DAU per hour), radiant close to Aurigae, rising at the beginning of the time, and close to the meridian just before sunrise.
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