Arrival meteor shower: the show at dawn


Raising your eyes to the sky, tonight, or better, in the very early morning of tomorrow, we could have a nice surprise. Falling stars from a meteor shower usually called '' minor '', the Alpha Monocerotids which, according to some astronomers, would be about to manifest an extraordinary peak. Peter Jenniskens (who works at the Seti Institute and at the Nasa Ames research center) ed Esko Lyytinen of the Finnish Fireball Network have been observing this phenomenon for years. They found that the conditions are similar to the 1995 event, when a maximum number of meteors of 400 per hour was calculated, a rhythm worthy of the larger swarms like Perseids or Orionids.

The gift of the comet

Like practically all meteor showers, the Alpha Monocerotids also originate from the passage of a comet and from the debris left behind. In this case it is an unknown parent, we only know that it should have a period of about 500 years. Jenniskens and Lyytinen found that this year the distance will be the next night Terra from the center of that wake is similar to the transit of 24 years ago. A good prerequisite for giving life to a good show. However this same trail is also very thin and the phenomenon will last very little.

Arrival meteor shower: the show at dawn

It will not be easy. Weather (and temperature) permitting, you'll need an early start. The appointment is in fact for 5.15 am, when the peak is expected, theoutburst: "It will last a maximum of 15 to 40 minutes – he explains Gianluca Masi, astrophysicist in charge of the Virtualtelescope project – because the comet's debris occupy a very narrow space region. But it's worth trying. Also because Jenniskens is the same that had predicted the event of '95. "Punctuality will therefore be fundamental.
Of the Alpha Monocerotids there were historic peaks of up to 1,000 meteors per hour in 1925 and 1935. This year, if it occurred, would therefore not be a record. But an opportunity to start the day well with an unusual show in these days of the year. The constellation to be found in the sky is that of the Unicorn (Monoceritis) observing southwest in the early morning sky. There is the "radiant", that is, the point where shooting stars seem to originate. Easy to find because it is next to Orione and right above Sirio, the star of the Dog that is also the brightest of all the northern sky.

The doubts of the scientists

Not everyone agrees with the analysis by Jenniskens and Lyytinen. One on all Bill Cooke, of the NASA meteorological observation center, according to which the calculations used to interpret the past passages and this are not accurate enough. Coming to the conclusion that there will be no "blaze" of meteors or that it will be much less impressive than you think, he writes in a post on the Nasa blog dedicated to the observation of the sky.All that remains is to wait and set the alarm. The chances of seeing some meteor, however, will be there, since it is the period of the Alpha Monocerotides (outburst or not). The Virtualtelescope, even if the weather permits it, will broadcast a live broadcast starting from 5.15. Unluckily it will have started the day in a different way, contemplating the stars.

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