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Everything you need to know: Draconid meteor shower

Radiant point of Draconid meteor shower, in the Head of the constellation Draco the Dragon. The radiant for the Draconids stands highest at nightfall in early October.

October’s Draconid meteor shower – sometimes called the Giacobinids – radiates from the fiery mouth of the northern constellation Draco the Dragon. Because the radiant is located so far north on the sky’s dome, this shower favors northerly latitudes (for example, U.S., Canada, Europe, northern Asia). In 2015, the evenings of October 8 and 9 will probably be the peak dates.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2015

Photo from Goldpaint Photography of last year's Orionid meteor shower at Middle Falls, located just outside the city of McCloud near Mount Shasta, CA. It's a composite consisting of every meteor captured during the night and includes the Milky Way crashing into the illuminated falls. The image was Grand Prize Winner of Outdoor Photographer Magazine’s 3rd Annual Great Outdoors Photography Contest and published in their July 2012 issue.  Notice there is more than one shower happening here.  More from Goldpaint Photography here.

Photo from Goldpaint Photography of an Orionid meteor shower at Middle Falls, near Mount Shasta, California. It’s a composite consisting of every meteor captured during the night and includes the Milky Way over the illuminated falls. The image was Grand Prize Winner of Outdoor Photographer Magazine’s 3rd Annual Great Outdoors Photography Contest in 2012. Notice there is more than one shower happening here.

Draconids, in early October, are usually a sleeper, but watch out if the Dragon awakes! Then watch for Orionids before dawn on the mornings around October 22.

Watch for South Taurid meteors in October

View larger South Taurid meteor. Note the Pleiades star cluster above the meteor, and the bright star Aldebaran roughly midway between the Pleiades and the meteor. Image credit: Rocy Raybell

South Taurid meteors radiate from the constellation Taurus, which you can find in this photo as the V-shaped pattern above the meteor. That V represents the face of the Bull in Taurus. Image via Flickr user Rocy Raybell.

The long-lasting South Taurid meteor shower (September 10 to November 20) may produce a “swarm” of fireballs this month or early next month. Watch for them.

Moon, Venus, Jupiter align before dawn


Get up before sunrise on October 7 and you can’t miss the moon and the sky’s two brightest planets adorning the predawn/dawn sky. From top to bottom, the celestial line-up features the moon, Venus and Jupiter – the brightest, second-brightest and third-brightest celestial bodies of nighttime, respectively.

Use Summer Triangle to find plane of Milky Way galaxy


Tonight … use the Summer Triangle and the constellation Cygnus the Swan to locate the galactic equator (plane) of our Milky Way galaxy. Sure, it’s autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, but the three brilliant stars that make up the Summer Triangle still shine. You’ll find them way up high in the October evening sky. I suggest viewing the scene from the comfort of a reclining lawn chair, with your feet pointing southward.

Find constellations of the Zodiac


The zodiacal constellations backdrop the pathway of the sun around our sky each year. Since the sun’s path lies within these constellations, you know you can look for the constellations along the approximate path that the sun follows during the day — from east to west across your southern sky. Not only do the sun and planets travel in front of the constellations of the Zodiac — so do the moon and planets!

Tonight … can you find the Big Dipper?

View larger. | The Big Dipper in the northwest after sunset on an autumn evening. As night passes – if you’re at a southerly latitude – the Dipper will be traveling below your northern horizon for much of the night during the autumn months. This beautiful photo from John Michael Mizzi on the island of Gozo, south of Italy. Thank you, John Michael.

Where is the Big Dipper at nightfall and early evening now? As seen from the Northern Hemisphere, this most famous of star patterns – the Big Dipper – lurks low in the northwest after sunset and quickly sinks below the horizon for those at southerly latitudes. It’s tough (or impossible) to spot the Big Dipper in the north on autumn evenings. But the pattern is visible all night from northerly latitudes, albeit low in the sky. And, before dawn around now, we’ll all find the Big Dipper ascending in the northeast.

October 2015 guide to the five visible planets

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Look east before dawn, where bright Venus and Jupiter – and fainter Mars – shine close together. Mercury joins in mid-month. Saturn is the lone evening planet.

Shedding light on the moon’s dark side

Mark Gregory

If you stay up late on October 12, you’ll see a moon that looks about like this. Image via Flickr user Mark Gregory

It’s true there is a far side of the moon – a side that remains hidden from Earth. But the moon doesn’t have a permanent dark side.

Moon near Aldebaran late night October 1


Tonight – October 1, 2015 – you’ll have to stay up late or wake up early tomorrow to see the waning gibbous moon near Aldebaran. This star represents the fiery eye of the Bull in the constellation Taurus. From far-western North America, the moon will pass in front of Aldebaran before dawn on October 2.