A rare Unicorn meteor storm producing up to seven meteors per minute may occur during the alpha Monocerotid meteor shower on the night of Thursday, November 21, 2019, according to a forecast made by meteor scientists Esko Lyytinen and Peter Jenniskens.
This alpha Monocerotid meteor shower has previously produced four meteor storms in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995.
The 1925 and 1935 meteor storms produced over 16 meteors per minute while the 1995 meteor storm produced 7 per minute.
When to Watch The 2019 Monocerotid meteor shower
The outburst is predicted to occur around 11:50 p.m. EST on Thursday, November 21, 2019, according to the American Meteor Society.
Where to Watch The 2019 Monocerotid meteor shower
The meteors will appear to radiate from the unicorn constellation Monoceros which is located to the left of Orion’s three-star belt.
Western Europe and northwestern Africa will have the best locations to view the 2019 Monocerotid meteor shower, according to AMS.
The Unicorn meteor storm will still be easily visible in most of North America but the meteors will appear to originate from the horizon to viewers on the west coast of North America.
Weather conditions for watching the meteor storm will be most favorable along the U.S. southeast coast and all of the Florida peninsula, according to AccuWeather.com.
How to Watch The 2019 Monocerotid meteor shower
For optimal viewing, find an open sky, lie on the ground, and look straight up into the dark sky. It is important to be far away from artificial lights.
Your eyes can take up to 30 minutes to adjust to the darkness, so allow plenty of time for your eyes to dark-adapt.
Where does the Monocerotid Meteor Shower come from?
According to Jenniskens and Lyytinen, the alpha Monocerotids are caused by a dust stream released by a long-period comet, but the comet itself is still unknown.
Whenever the Earth hits this stream, meteors appear to be flying out of the Unicorn constellation.
What is a Meteor Storm?
The intensity of a meteor shower depends on how large and dense the comet’s dust trail is. If the trail is spread out and loosely compact, then the meteor shower will likely result in just a few meteors seen per hour over a couple of weeks.
However, if the 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.
If this scenario happens, then the meteor shower is referred to as a meteor storm, according to the National Weather Service.