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There Are Two Meteor Showers This Month. Here’s How to Watch Them.

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A meteor shower over the Black Sea in Bulgaria
Photo by Jasmine_K / Shutterstock.com

A meteor shower over the Black Sea in Bulgaria

The Orionids and Draconids will both light up October’s night sky.

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Now that fall is here and the days are getting shorter, there are plenty of events to look forward to in the night sky. While you’ll have to wait until December for a major meteor shower that will live up to the spectacular show that the Perseids put on in August, 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.

When and where can you see the Orionids meteor shower?

October’s biggest meteor shower—the Orionids—will begin to peak Sunday, October 21, and Monday, October 22, according to Space.com. Although it is active now through November 27, 2018, and is visible from anywhere in the world, the best viewing will occur around 2 a.m. on the nights of October 21 and October 22, Bill Cooke, a NASA meteor expert, told Space.com

Unfortunately, October’s full moon will take place just a few days after the peak of the Orionids, which means the night sky will be fairly bright this year. In order to have a chance to see as many meteors as possible, you’ll have to make sure to be somewhere where there’s a clear sky and little to no light pollution. Up to 15 meteors per hour are expected to be seen if you are in a rural location with little light pollution (visit darkysky.org to find a dark sky spot near you). Be sure to head out 30 minutes early to let your eyes adjust to the dark.

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Earthsky.org points out that you might be able to capture a few hours after the moon sets before dawn on October 21 to get a better view of the shooting stars, so it could be worth waking up early instead of staying up late to see the sky at its darkest. To find out when the moon sets in your location, visit sunrisesunset.com and check the “moonrise and moonset” box.

The Orionids meteor shower in 2016

What else is happening in the night sky in October 2018?

Earlier in October, a smaller meteor shower peaks on Monday, October 8. The Draconids will be best in the early evening and you can expect to see around six meteors per hour. That’s significantly fewer than the Orionids later in the month, but the new moon falls on the same night so the sky will be much darker for the Draconids.

On the night of October 24, 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.

When is the next meteor shower in 2018?

If you end up missing the Orionids and Draconids in October, you won’t have to wait long for the next celestial event. The Taurids and Andromedids will be visible in the late evening on November 9, 2018, and November 25 to 27, 2018, respectfully. (But with only three to five meteors expected per hour, they might not be worth traveling for.) The Leonids—happening on November 17 to 18—will be slightly more active with 10 meteors per hour.

If you’re planning to travel to a dark sky reserve, it’s best to wait until December. The next major meteor shower—the Geminids—will begin to peak mid-evening on December 13 and last until dawn on December 14, according to EarthSky.org. Up to 100 meteors per hour are expected to be seen and the night sky should be relatively dark since it falls within a few day of the new moon on December 7.

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