A Unicorn Spitting 400 Meteors per Hour

Possible meteor shower in Monoceros – the Unicorn!

Radiant for the Monocerotids Meteor Shower

“What’s rarer than seeing a unicorn? How about a unicorn spitting meteors at the rate of 400 per hour?”

lead in from Sky & Telescope’s Nov, 2019 article on the Alpha Monocerotids meteor shower

A meteor shower is possible this week on the evening of Thursday Nov 21st and extending into the early morning on Nov 22nd. Meteor forecasters Esko Lyytinen (Finnish Fireball Network) and Peter Jenniskens (NASA/Ames) predict this could cause another outburst of alpha Monocerotid meteors.

During previous outbursts, in 1925 and 1935, activity reached meteor-storm levels with a zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of more than 1,000. Near-storm level ZHRs around 700 to 400 were experienced in 1985 and 1995. Conditions this year are nearly the same as those in 1995 leading Lyytinen and to Jenniskens to predict a ZHR of 400.

The peak rate is centered at 08:50 PM PST on Thursday November 21st. The show is expected to be brief, with the peak rate lasting only 15 to 45 minutes. The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky but the paths of meteors will appear to originate from a point in the constellation Monoceros, near the bright star Procyon. The predicted ZHR is an over-estimate based on the extending the peak rate to a full hour, observing at the zenith with very dark skies. The best case, for real observing at a good location, might be closer to a maximum of 5 meteors per minute.

There is some good news & bad news for BC observers:

  • The current weather forecast looks somewhat favourable, partially cloudy is pretty good for this time of year in our temperate rainforest.
  • The radiant will be below the horizon during the shower peak which may compromise the view, but a few long earth-grazers may appear shooting upward from the eastern horizon.
Monoceros & Procyon rising one hour after the expected peak of the meteor shower.
Nov 21st, 2019 21:50 PST from Vancouver

It is still worth going out for a look. Try to find a dark place with an open view to the east.