IMCCE Meteor Shower Ephemerides Server

(Earth) 2011 Draconids


The Draconids meteor shower come from Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, and as such have often been called the Giacobinids in the past. The most famous outburst of this shower happened in 1933 and in 1946, during which more than 10,000 meteors per hour were recorded. Interestingly, those storms were caused by the trail ejected in 1900, when the comet was discovered. In 2011, the earth will once again encounter this very trail causing a meteor outburst. This page presents the IMCCE forecasting results.


The model we used is briefly described here. The location of the trail with respect to the Earth is shown below.

Movie showing the evolution of the 1900 trail in the Solar System (J. Vaubaillon - IMCCE ; Aknowledgements: CINES supercomputer facilities)

View of the stream in the vicinity of the Earth path, on Oct 2011.

Close view of the stream and identification of the trails

As can be seen, the earth will encounter trails ejected during the 19th century, as well as in 1900. As a consequence, two outbursts are expected on October 8, 2011, with maxima respectively at 17:09 UT and 19:57 UT. These timings will allow people from Central Asia as well as Europe to witness the events. Note that the time of first outburst caused by the trails ejected during the 19th century is based on extrapolation of the orbit of that parent comet, since the comet was not yet discovered at that time, making the forecasting uncertain. Interestingly, this first outburst will be the occasion to probe the orbit and study the activity of a comet before it was discovered. The expected level of the shower is around 60 events per hour, but this number is highly uncertain for the above-mentioned reasons.

What is extremely exciting, is the perspective of experiencing and meteor outburst from the trail that we "know", in the sense that the Earth has already encountered it in the past. The level of the shower has been computed with two different methods. The first one is based on our past experience on the photometry of the parent body. However, such information for the time of ejection of the trail is not available, or at least not accurate enough for our investigation. Instead, we have compared the post-predictions of the 1933 and 1946 storms and compared them with the coming 2011 outburst. As already pointed out by Watanabe and Sato (2008), the only way to explain the relative strength of the storms is to invoke a change of activity of the comet. This is the reason why the 1933 storm was mainly used in these predictions. By doing so, we end up with a level of the shower around 600 events per hour. In addition, no other outburst is expected for the coming 40 years! This is an exceptional event that no one should miss!

What can you do?

Everybody is invited and encouraged to enjoy the show, as well as to participate into the scientific efforts, by sending reports to the international meteor organization. This is by far the most useful contribution that amateurs can do. If you need a device to observe the shower, please have a look at the visual meteor observation webpage. Otherwise, you can just enjoy the show with your family! For this, the only thing you need is a clear sky (that is to say, far from any light pollution and no cloud at all). Remember that meteors are visible by naked eye, so you do not need a telescope to observe them. This is why meteors are fun and easy to observe!

As a tool to help organize your observation, J. Anderson (U. Manitoba) was kind to provide us with a weather statistic map, reproduced here with his authorization. The following maps provide you with the cloud cover statistics in early October for a given region in the world. You can see that the Mediterranean area is better than Northern Europe, but the radiant of the Draconids (and hence the number of visible meteors) will be lower. Note also that the Moon will be almost full at the time of the shower.

Weather statistics for Europe

Weather statistics for Central Asia

What will we do?

At IMCCE and in collaboration with researchers from all over the world, we are making all our efforts to organize an airborne-based observation campaign. In the past, many similar campaigns have been organized by Peter Jenniskens (SETI Institute), ensuring the feasibility of such a project. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such a campaign is organized in Europe by Europeans.

Courtesy of SAFIRE - CNRS

The idea is to use research dedicated aircrafts, specifically the French SAFIRE (CNRS) and the German equivalent Falcon 20 (DLR) and have the two aircrafts fly together over Scandinavia (mainly Finland), separated by 100 km (as has already been done during the 2007 Aurigids). We will put as many cameras as possible (and allowed) in each plane and measure the flux of particles, the orbit of the meteoroids (in order to derive their specific origin) and meteor spectra (in order to know their chemical composition). Much is expected from such a unique campaign!

DLR Falcon 20 ; Courtesy of DLR and EUFAR

The flight plan will roughly look like this:

Draft for the flight plan. The meeting point is where the US Gulfstream will join us. There will be one short hour to refuel at Kiruna between te 2 peaks. Then we will fly towards Boston and return to Scandinavia while the Gulfstream will go back to the US.

At this time (early 2011), we are sending proposals to the French research agencies as well as to the EUFAR consortium in order to get funding for the campaign. P. Koten (Ondrejov observatory) and J. Hatton (ESA) are cooridnating the proposals for the EUFAR consortium. In the meanwhile P. Jenniskens is putting every effort to organize a rendez-vous with a NASA funded Gulfstream.

In late January, INSU via CSA (French research agency) has granted us with the funds necessary to fly the airplane! We are still in need for support for the scientific instruments and for the DLR Falcon 20. This is all exciting: will we fly or not? In the meanwhile, we are getting ready for the mission, no matter what! Below is a drawing showing the location of the cameras in the SAFIRE airplane.

Draft for the configuration of the cameras in the SAFIRE / CNRS aircraft, showing the location of the cameras in the cabin (R. Caillou, SAFIRE/CNRS).

Even more to come very soon!

Here is a non-exhaustive list of collaborators for this international effort (for ground base or airborne base observations):

  • J. Vaubaillon, F. Colas, S. Bouley, R. Rudawska - IMCCE, France
  • P. Koten, J. Borovicka, P. Spurny - Ondrejov Observatory, The Czech Republic
  • J. Hatton, D. Koschny, J. McAuliffe - European Space Agency
  • P. Jenniskens - SETI Institute, USA
  • A. Christou, D. Asher, M. Bailey - Armagh Obsrevatory, N.Ireland, UK
  • J. Toth, University of Bratislava, Slovakia
  • M. Wisnewski, The Polish Firebal Network, Poland
  • J. Watanabe, M. Sato
  • A. Margonis, J. Oberst, DLR, Germany
  • R. Dantowitz, Clay observatory, USA
  • M. Taylor, D. Pautet - Utah Univ., USA
  • M. Koop, M. Kozubal - Mt Lemmon obs., USA
  • B. Cooke, D. Moser - NASA/MSFC, USA
  • M.Gritsevich, G Ryabova - Russia
  • J.M. Trigo-Rodriguez, M. Tapia, J. Dergham, and J. Cortes, Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC-IEEC), Spain J.M. Madiedo, Universidad de Huelva, Spain
  • The Internatinal Meteor Organization, which includes people from all over the world.
  • The SAFIRE Falcon 20 and DLR - Falcon 20 crew, as well as the EUFAR consortium (confirmation wanted)

See also

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