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400 meteors per hour? Meteor shower could dazzle tonight

Outburst of shooting stars may only last 30 minutes

MIAMI – Make your plans now, the next meteor shower could be one for the books.

The Alpha Monocerotids are typically quiet, producing just a few meteors per hour, but a handful of times over the past 100 years, the shower produced hundreds of meteors per hour. Some scientists believe 2019 could be one of those years.

Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through the debris field left over by an asteroid or comet. Don’t be alarmed, the particles from the debris field are only the size of a grain of sand. Due to the very fast nature of the particles, they heat up and glow as they burn up, hitting Earth’s atmosphere.

Peter Jenniskens, a senior research scientist with SETI and the NASA’s AMES Research Center, has been monitoring the shower.

If Earth passes through the dense part of the debris field as it did in the years Jenniskens mentioned in the link above, we could be in for a treat. The catch, however, is that the peak is only expected to last approximately 30 minutes, unlike the more popular annular showers that last a whole night or two.

For reference, the cream of the crop meteor showers, the Persieds and Geminids, typically produce about 60 meteors an hour, so this could truly be an event for the ages.

How To See

When: Night of Nov. 21. Peak expected around 11:30 p.m. Be situated by 11 p.m. in case the show begins early.

Where: Look East. Find Orion's Belt. The meteors will look to originate just below and to the left and appear to fall out of the constellation Monoceros.

Length: 15-45 minutes

No binoculars or telescope needed, but give your eyes 15-30 minutes to adjust to the night sky. The further away from lights you are, the better the show will be. The moon should not be much of a factor for viewing.


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