KOKOMO, Ind. – With potential for 400 meteors per hour to be visible late Thursday evening, it may be worth staying up past bedtime.
Patrick Motl, associate professor of physics, and director of Indiana University Kokomo’s Observatory, says those who hope to see the obscure Alpha Monocerotid shower should be outside, looking to the southeast, by 11:15 p.m.
“This meteor shower, if it happens, will be quite brief,” he said, noting that the anticipated time is from 11:15 to 11:50 p.m. “If you see an outburst where there are more than 100 per hour, it’s pretty impressive. Once or twice a minute, you’re seeing a shooting star.”
For best viewing, stargazers should be outside looking to the east or southeast, preferably from a spot with a clear view of the eastern horizon. Weather conditions will also play into visibility. It will be relatively low in the sky.
Meteor showers are caused by comets breaking up while orbiting through the solar system, and are visible as the earth passes through the debris trail. The shooting stars are bits of rocks, ice, and debris from the comet.
This one is unique, because source of the Alpha Monocerotids hasn’t been identified, Motl said. The stream’s orbital characteristics indicate a comet with a period of about 500 years, that deposited a dense, narrow ribbon of debris in the distant past.
The Observatory will not be open for the meteor storm, as it is best viewed away from city lights, and requires no special equipment.
“Meteor showers are a lot of fun, but telescopes really don’t help with them,” he said. “You want to be able to see as much of the sky as you can.”
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.