Mysterious comet predicted to trigger outburst of meteors Thursday night

Two well known meteor scientists are predicting the outburst of the alpha Monocerotid meteor shower tonight, with as many as 400 to 1,000 meteors per hour possible.

The last time an outburst occurred was in 1995, which produced up to 400 meteors per hour.

The outburst is forecast to reach its climax around 11:50 p.m., according to the American Meteor Society.

Unfortunately, a passing cold front will bring widespread cloud cover to the Miami Valley during the peak of this potential outburst.

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Peter Jenniskens and Esko Lyytinen have made calculations for the outburst after studying the meteor shower for years.

However, there is some speculation as to whether this outburst will happen.

According to NASA scientists, the intensity of an outburst depends on the size of the parent comet’s orbit and how close Earth is to the comet as it passes through the Monocerotid meteor stream.

“And since we have not yet discovered this mysterious parent comet, who knows how close the estimate of the orbit is to the actual,” said Bill Cooke, the lead of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office.

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“The cool thing is that if an outburst does occur, we will have a pretty good idea of the orbit of this comet – not from observing the comet with telescopes, but by counting its debris as they burn up in our atmosphere,” Cook said.

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