How to Watch the "Unicorn" Meteor Storm on Thursday Night

Cameron LeBlanc

In a meteor shower, the Earth passes through debris left behind by an asteroid or comet, debris that burns up in the atmosphere, creating a light show for those of us down here on the surface.

A meteor storm is a much rarer and, as its name suggests, much cooler phenomenon that happens when the debris is “small and dense.” And meteor scientists are predicting one that would be visible from the United States on Thursday night.

The meteors will radiate from Monoceros, a faint constellation that gets its name from the Greek word for unicorn. The last time there was an alpha Monocerotoids meteor storm was 1995, when around 400 meteors per hour were visible. By comparison, 20 meteors per hour were visible during last month’s Orionid meteor shower.

There is a trade-off with this meteor storm; whereas showers can last for several hours, this storm will be over in less than an hour, so it’s important to time it right. The American Meteor Society is forecasting the climax of the storm at 11:50 p.m. EST on Thursday night, so you’ll want to be in position well before then, as shooting stars will appear starting around 11.

“These meteors are never spaced evenly but appear in bunches so 2-3 meteors may be seen seconds apart and then an entire minute could go by without any activity,” the AMS said.

Unfortunately, large swaths of the United States will have weather that is less than optimal for stargazing. The best areas to see the storm will be most of Florida and the eastern halves Georgia and the Carolinas.

If you are lucky enough to have clear skies on Thursday night, you won’t want to miss your chance to see this unicorn meteor storm; the next one isn’t expected until November 22, 2043.

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