TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The alpha Monoceratid meteor shower is expected to peak Thursday night. Typically, this meteor shower is considered minor with only a few meteors per night. However, this year is predicted to be much different with an outburst possible of up to 400 meteors in a short period of time.
The show is predicted to be centered around 11:50 PM EST with the most meteors falling in a 15 minute window. The entire show will only last up to 40 minutes which is why the astronomers urge you to be outside by 11:15 P.M. EST.
Storm Team 8 Digital Meteorologist Amanda Holly urges you to be even earlier to allow your eyes time to adjust to the darkness to see every meteor possible. It typically takes 15-20 minutes for the human eye to adjust to darkness and see fainter lights or in this case, meteors.
The two astronomers who have been tracking this potential outburst for several years are Esko Lyytinen and Peter Jenniskens. Their research show this year may be most similar to the outburst of 1995 which saw 400 to 700 meteors. Previous outbursts have also occurred in 1985, 1935, and 1925.
This particular meteor shower occurs in a debris trail from a comet that is currently still unknown. The comet is suspected to have a long period orbit, meaning it doesn’t come around very often. According to the astronomers, the orbit is potentially around 600 years.
The reason the alpha Monoceratids do not typically put on this big of a show is due to the narrow debris trail left behind by the comet. Earth’s orbit doesn’t take us through this debris trail often but when it does, the show has proven spectacular if you’re in the right place at the right time.
This year, the eastern half of the United States has a good view.
This shower is being refereed to by some as a ‘Unicorn Meteor Shower’ as the meteors originate from the constellation Monoceros, which is Greek for Unicorn.
If you don’t know where that is in the sky, look towards the constellation Orion which is more commonly known, or just in the eastern horizon.
Grab a blanket, as temperatures will fall into the low 60s. Skies should be clearer compared to this past weekend’s Leonid meteor shower.
Keep in mind this is a forecast and not guaranteed but the two astronomers seem confident and say this year it is “likely.” Don’t forget! 11:15 P.M.
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