By Todd Richissin
Meteor showers can put on a great show — when there's a clear, or at least clearish, sky.
Tonight is shaping up to be ideal conditions in Westlake to check out the Draconid meteor shower 2013 peak, with a forecast of clear skies.
The dates for the Draconids 2013 peak are Oct. 7 and 8, followed a couple weeks later by the usually (but not this year) more reliable Orionid meteor shower peak — which this year is followed by the chance to see the Comet ISON in November.
The Draconid meteor shower has its good, bad and hopeful sides.
The good: Because of its position in the sky, you can see the Draconid meteor shower closer to sunset than to sunrise.
The bad: Most years, the Draconid meteor shower is not a shower at all, producing only a handful of slow-moving meteors.
The hopeful: When the Draconids shower hits, it really hits, at times producing several hundred meteors in an hour. And with just a sliver of moon for the 2013 Draconids peak, there could be a great show in the skies.
The best place to watch is the darkest place possible.
Stargazers locally should try the mountains or deserts or even the beach, looking out over the ocean and into the dark sky.
Earthsky.org has these tips from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere:
These extremely slow-moving Draconid meteors, when traced backward, radiate from the head of Draco the Dragon, near the stars Eltanin and Rastaban. However, you don’t have to locate Draco the Dragon to watch the Draconids, for these meteors fly every which way through the starry sky.
Simply find a dark, open sky away from artificial lights. Plan to spend a few hours lounging comfortably under the stars. Bring along a reclining lawn chair, have your feet point in a general north or northwest direction and look upward. If you don’t know your cardinal directions, just lie down and look upward. Chill, and enjoy! You might see some meteors.
This may be your best chance this month to see a meteor shower. While the Orionids are usually reliable, a bright moon this year will likely bleach out much of your view.