- Portions of the eastern U.S. and Canada will be treated to a stellar meteor shower this evening beginning at 11:15. p.m. EST.
- Pending clear skies, you’ll see a brief burst of meteors darting through the sky.
- The shower will be a bit magical as it will occur near the Monoceros (unicorn) constellation.
Tonight’s Alpha Monocerotid meteor shower is what some are calling “autumn’s skywatching wildcard.” This meteor shower is expected to dazzle with a rare, brief outburst tonight at 11:15 p.m. (EST), or 4:15 a.m. (UT).
Alpha Monocerotid doesn’t usually produce much for stargazers to see, which makes tonight’s show especially exciting. It was only on four previous occasions—1925, 1935, 1985, and 1995—that the shower, which appeared close to the Monoceros (Unicorn) constellation, produced an incredible show with a slew of meteors lighting up the sky in rapid succession.
If you live in the northeast—and you’re lucky, of course, since meteor showers are notoriously fickle—you might see up to 400 shooting starts across the sky during tonight’s shower, according to National Geographic.
But you can’t wait around for very long. According to Peter Jenniskens, a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute and the NASA Ames Research Center, and Esko Lyytinen from the Ursa Finnish Fireball Network, the cosmic show will be “almost completely over in about 40 minutes,” per their brief paper on the shower. If you want to catch the whole thing from start to finish, you’ll want to turn your gaze skyward no later than 11:15 p.m. EST.
How to Watch
If you’re in the Eastern U.S. or Canada, viewing conditions—pending clear skies—should be pretty decent. Remember that you’ll want to be as far away from as much light pollution as possible.
You’ll also want to stay away from areas where there are tall trees or other objects that will obstruct views of the open sky. If you have a telescope or binoculars on hand, bring them along for even better views.
The bad news is that if you’re outside of eastern North America, you’re probably not going to see any of the Alpha Monocerotid shower tonight. You will, however, be able to catch a livestream—shared below—of the event courtesy of the Virtual Telescope Project.