Look to the stars Thursday and you might just see something extra special.
Staring up at the sky can be a magical experience, taking in the vast universe and the stars above us. And on Thursday night, Americans could see something extra memorable: what an AccuWeather meteorologist has called a “unicorn meteor storm.”
The alpha Monocerotid meteor shower is predicted to turn into a meteor storm on Thursday night, in what could be the first such storm since 1995, AccuWeather reported. The last time this happened, it produced rates of about 400 meteors per hour — a stunning show in the sky — according to the American Meteor Society (AMS).
This shower, predicted by meteor scientists Esko Lyytinen and Peter Jenniskens, will peak around 11:50 p.m. EST, according to the AMS and AccuWeather.
Stargazers in Florida and along the southeastern coast up through North Carolina, as well as those in California and states including North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and parts of Idaho have the best chances to see the storm, according to AccuWeather.
“Unlike most meteor outbursts which last for several hours, strong activity from the alpha Monocertids is over within an hour and easily missed,” the AMS wrote, adding that it is “not a certain event.”
“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 added. “This is still far and away extraordinary activity and should be monitored.”
A meteor shower is caused when the Earth passes through a field of asteroid or comet debris, according to AccuWeather, while a meteor storm occurs when the dust trail is smaller and dense, causing the hundreds or thousands of meteors to burn up quickly.
If you miss this meteor storm, there are still plenty of ways to take stargazing to the next level, including going horseback riding in Chile’s Atacama Desert or settling down in the Grand Canyon, an official International Dark Sky Park.
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