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How to see two meteor showers peak and light it up this week

Both the 2019 Draconids and Southern Taurids are set to blaze a trail across night skies this week.

A Draconid streaks the Canadian skies.

NASA/UWO Meteor Physics Group

The Perseid meteor shower in August has a rep for being one of the best times of year to catch sizzling shooting stars, but the lesser-known Draconids might be the most convenient to see. They also come with a bonus in the form of the Southern Taurid shower reaching its own peak this week too. 

You have to get up before dawn to make the most of many meteor showers, but the Draconid shower is the rare one that's best viewed closer to nightfall. It's one of the few times quality meteor spotting might slot in between dinner and bedtime on a school night. 

The Draconids are set to peak Tuesday evening, and could produce up to 10 meteors an hour. The Southern Taurids will then peak the following night, but they're a more typical meteor shower that tends to be best seen between midnight and dawn.

Some years there are "meteor storms" when the number of visible meteors is boosted exponentially to hundreds per hour. No such storm is predicted for this year, though there's been some late speculation that we could see a small outburst of Draconid activity Tuesday. Last year, one such outburst produced about 150 meteors per hour, according to the International Meteor Organization.   

Both showers will be active all week, but Tuesday and Wednesday night especially could be good for catching a few shooting stars and bright fireballs. The Taurids in particular are known for generating big-time fireballs. 

One potential problem is that the moon will be out until after midnight in most locations, potentially drowning out the meteors with its light. 

That said, it's still worth heading outside to see what you can. It's not really necessary to know which part of the sky to watch; just find a spot with minimal light pollution and a clear view of the (hopefully cloudless) sky. Give your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust, sit back and relax.

Meteor showers happen when the Earth drifts through clouds of tiny debris left behind by visiting comets. This is what we see as shooting stars or fireballs as it burns up in the atmosphere. The Draconids are caused by debris from comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, while the Southern Taurids were left behind by comet 2P/Encke.

If the weather doesn't cooperate where you are this week, another opportunity awaits later in the month when the Orionids peak on Oct. 20-21.