(Neb)-Rare Meteor Storm Possible Tonight
CHADRON - Skywatchers could be in for a rare treat tonight if astronomer are right and the usually minor Alpha "Unicorn" meteor shower turns into a meteor storm. If their projections hold, there could be as many as 400 "shooting stars" in a 15-to-40 minute outburst around 9:15 MT.
All meteor showers are caused by comets, which leave dust trails that Earth smashes into on its orbit around the Sun. The shooting stars occur as those bits of dust and rock burn up in the atmosphere.
The origin of the Unicorn shower, officially the Monocerotid Shower, is unknown, but astronomers think it may be a comet that orbits the Earth only once every 500 years with a narrow trail the Earth almost never encounters.
In fact, it's happened only 4 times in the last 96 years, most recently in 1995, and isn't predicted to happen again for another 26 years. Two of the occurances had more than a thousand shooting stars per hour, making them meteor storms, while the other 2 had 400 and 700, making them outbursts.
The Unicorn name comes because it appears to a viewer on Earth that the shooting stars appear to come from the in the constellation of Monoceros, the Unicorn, just to the upper left of Orion's Belt
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