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How to Watch the Orionids and Draconids Meteor Showers This October

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You don’t have to travel far—just somewhere dark enough—to see October’s two meteor showers.

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You don’t have to travel far—just somewhere dark enough—to see October’s two meteor showers.

Grab a blanket, head outdoors, and look up.

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Now that fall is here and the days are getting shorter, there are plenty of celestial events to look forward to in the night sky. You’ll have to wait until December for a major meteor shower—the Geminids—that will live up to the spectacular show that the Perseids put on in August. But every October the Orionids and the Draconids meteor showers send dozens of meteoroids—or debris left behind by passing comets—burning through the Earth’s atmosphere on peak nights.

How to see the Draconids meteor shower

The smaller of the two meteor showers peaks on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, according to Earthsky.org. The Draconids will be best in the early evening and you can expect to see around five meteors per hour. That’s significantly fewer than the Orionids later in the month, but a waning gibbous moon won’t rise until later in the evening so there’s a chance to see them under dark conditions for the few hours between dusk and moon rise, the American Meteor Society reports.

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Because the Draconids meteor shower radiates from the head of the constellation Draco the Dragon, located in the northern sky, it’s best viewed from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. In order to have a chance to see as many meteors as possible, be sure to be somewhere where there’s a clear sky and little to no light pollution (visit darkysky.org to find a dark sky spot near you). Be sure to head out around 45 minutes early to let your eyes adjust to the dark. If you can’t get away the night of October 7, try the night of October 8, as well.

Arizona’s Dark Skies: Where to Find Them and How to Enjoy Them

How to see the Orionids meteor shower

October’s biggest meteor shower—the Orionids—will begin to peak just before dawn on Wednesday, October 21, according to Earthsky.org. The Orionids are actually active now through November 7, 2020, and visible from anywhere in the world, so you can also try your chances the nights surrounding October 21, as well.

Thankfully, the waxing crescent moon sets in the evening so the sky will be free of moonlight for the Orionids in 2020. To find out when the moon sets in your location, visit sunrisesunset.com and check the “moonrise and moonset” box. Between 10 to 20 meteors per hour are expected to be seen if you are in a rural location with little light pollution. 

A full moon will also take place on Halloween in 2020

On the night of Saturday, October 31, 2020, the Hunter’s Moon—the name of the full moon that happens each October—will light up the night sky. According to Farmers’ Almanac, American Indians gave the Hunter’s Moon its name since it was used to signal when meat should start being stored for the winter. The last time a full moon fell on Halloween night was 1944. It will also be the second full moon to take place this October, technically making it a blue moon, as well.

Do you need any special gear to watch these meteor showers?

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You won’t need a telescope, since most meteors are bright enough to see with the naked eye. However, you will want to give yourself about 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, so you’ll want to stay warm and have something comfortable to sit on while you acclimate. 

A reclining camp chair can help prevent a sore neck the next day, a packable puffy blanket will keep things warm on chilly nights, and a headlamp with a red-light setting helps illuminate the path to your stargazing spot without introducing unwanted light to the area. Here are some of our favorite gear picks for each of those scenarios:

Buy now: Nemo Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair, $220, rei.com

Buy now: Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket, $99, rumpl.com

Buy now: Petzl Tikka Headlamp, $30, rei.com

When is the next meteor shower worth watching in 2020?

If you end up missing the Orionids and Draconids in October, you won’t have to wait long for the next celestial event worth staying up late—or waking up early—to happen. The Northern Taurids and Leonids will be visible in the late evening on November 11, 2020, and before dawn on November 17, 2020, respectfully. It’s predicted that the Northern Taurids will produce about five meteors per hour, but the Leonids will be slightly more active with 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

If you’re planning to travel to a dark sky reserve, instead of just heading out to your backyard, it’s best to wait until December. The next major meteor shower, the Geminids, will begin to peak midevening on December 13 and last until dawn on December 14, according to EarthSky.org. Around 50 meteors or more per hour are expected to be visible, and the sky should be completely dark all night since a new moon falls on December 14.

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