(CBS Local) — Stargazers are eagerly anticipating an intense “unicorn” meteor storm that scientists say could appear in the night sky late Thursday evening.
There is a “good chance” to see the first alpha Monocerotids meteor storm since 1995, when there were about 400 meteors per hour, according to meteor scientists Esko Lyytinen and Peter Jenniskens.
The alpha Monocerotids are active every year around November 21 to 23, producing around 10 meteors per hour each night during a normal shower. But occasionally, it produces remarkable meteor storms that last less than an hour. Such large outbursts were observed in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995.
The conditions are lining up the way they did in 1995, so the meteor scientists are hopeful, but emphasize that this is only a prediction.
Mysterious Comet Will Cause Rare ‘Unicorn’ Meteor Shower This Weekhttps://t.co/In6AhotZRA
— WBZ | CBS Boston News (@wbz) November 20, 2019
Observers are encouraged to watch for possible alpha Monocerotids 11:15 p.m. EST/PST onward. If an outburst takes place, it is likely peak around 11:50 p.m. EST/PST lasting about 15 up to 40 minutes maximum.
“Unlike most meteor outbursts which last for several hours, strong activity from the alpha Monocertids is over within an hour and easily missed,” the American Meteor Society said.
The Alpha Monocerotids, like all meteor showers, occur when the Earth passes through a field of debris left by an asteroid or comet.
What’s odd about this shower is that the comet is unknown.
If the [comet’s] dust trail is small and dense, then the resulting meteor shower may result in hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of meteors burning up in just minutes,” according to the National Weather Service. “If this scenario happens, that the meteor shower is referred to as a meteor storm.”