Science

Mysterious comet will cause a rare ‘Unicorn’ meteor storm this week

Timing will be critical if you're looking to see the meteor shower.

Thursday night's Alpha Monocerotid meteor shower could produce a meteor outburst, meaning multiple shooting stars per second could stream across the night sky, according to WDBJ meteorologist Brent Watts. The waning moon will cause only minor interference and the best views will be in western Europe, eastern North America, South America and northwestern Africa. Two stargazers foresee the Alpha Monocerotids showers will be a progressively extraordinary appearing. The large outbursts previously occurred in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995.

The meteor shower comes from the dust trail of an unknown comet, the meteor scientists said.

This nameless visitor deposited a dense, narrow ribbon of debris in the distant past with a half-width of only around 55,000 kilometers (34,175 miles), equal to the distance from the center of Earth to the geostationary satellite belt.

The conditions are lining up the way they did in 1995, so the meteor scientists are hopeful, but remind everyone that this is only a prediction. Two astronomers predicted the outburst will last less than an hour and could even yield more than 400 meteors in that time.

Sky & Telescope estimates there could be up to 400 meteors per hour originating from the night sky near the star Procyon, which is close to the constellation Monoceros (the unicorn), although the show will only last about a half-hour for earthlings.

The astronomers recommend that people begin observing the sky an hour before the predicted time, in case the shower begins early.

Find an open area away from the city that will afford you a wide view of the sky, and don't forget to bring a blanket or chair and dress for the weather. Here's what you need to know about the looming light show.



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