The annual Draconid meteor shower is set to peak this week in a dazzling display of shooting stars across the night sky. Visible from the northern hemisphere on the 8 and 9 October, staying up to watch the meteor shower could well be worthwhile for keen skywatchers – as the view will not be obscured by moonlight.
October's Draconids, also referred to as the Giacobinids, are named after the constellation Draco from which the meteors seem to appear. The meteors originate from the periodic comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner and are a precursor to the Orionid meteor shower, which will peak around 21 October.
How spectacular will the shower be?
The shower can be prolific, depending on whether the Earth is travelling through a denser part of the cometary debris stream and if the meteors are obscured by the moon. In 2012, for example, up to 1,000 meteors per hour were detected by radar observations.
What are meteor showers?
Meteors come from leftover comet particles from broken asteroids. When comets pass around the sun, the dust they emit turns into a trail around their orbits. The Earth passes through these debris trails and the particles collide with our atmosphere where they disintegrate and burn up, creating flashes of light across the sky.
For the best chance of seeing the meteor shower, find an area with little light pollution where you can set up camp with a sleeping bag, blanket or chair – as you might be in for the long haul. Nasa advises to lie flat on your back so you have a panoramic view of the night sky. It will take around 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark, which will help you spot the shower.
Where can I see the meteor shower in the UK?
Thanks to specially allocated areas of dark sky free of light pollution, it is possible to see the meteor shower even in cities.
London: The WaterWorks Nature Reserve in east London is a spot less affected by light pollution - a rarity in the capital. You can get there via Clapton and Leyton Midland Rd stations.
Birmingham: Warley Woods is west of the city centre and can be reached via the A456 Hagley Road.
Manchester: Heaton Park is the largest park in greater Manchester. It is accessible by tram or bus from the city centre, or via the M60 motorway.
Newcastle: Northumberland National Park is the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe.
Glasgow: The Mugdock Country Park can be reached by bus from the city centre.
Cardiff: The Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Reserve was the first destination in Wales to be granted special protection as an international dark sky reserve.
Belfast: Oxford Island National Nature Reserve hosted an event for the BBC Stargazing Live in 2012 and 2013.
Sheffield: In the Peak District, Surprise View is a car park on the outskirts of Hathersage with a panoramic view of the Hope Valley - which may be a good spot for spotting the meteor shower.
Bristol: Leigh Woods can be reached from the centre via the A369 towards Portishead.
Where can I see the meteor shower in the US?
Pennsylvania: Cherry Springs State Park is a gold-certified International Dark Sky Park and its night sky viewing area is open 24/7.
New York: The Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side of the city is home to the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York on Friday nights.
California: Death Valley National Park is a gold-certified International Dark Sky Park, with very little artificial light within its 3.4 million acres. Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County, southern California, is also good spot.
Philadelphia: The Tuckahoe State Park is two hours out of the city.
Arizona: The Kitt Peak National Observatory, near Tucson, is home to the world's largest collection of optical telescopes. The clear, dark skies of the Sonoran desert are also a firm favourite with astronomers.
Utah: The night sky at Bryce canyon is so dark it is possible to see 7,500 stars on a moonless night.
Illinois: The Hickory Knolls Discovery Centre in St Charles is a nature conservatory and a Dark Sky Park.
New Mexico: Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a great location to try and spot the Delta Aquarids.
Texas: The Big Bend National Park in west Texas has gone to some lengths to retain its International Dark Sky status, including by changing the lighting to shielded LEDs.
Alaska: The Denali National Park and Preserve has minimal light pollution and also offers incredible views of the Aurora Borealis.