Meteor shower Thursday night could be once in a lifetime event
“This is probably more spectacular than most of us will see in a lifetime if it occurs as predicted"
RAPID CITY, S.D. —Shooting stars are special, meteor showers are even more special, but tonight’s event may be a once in a lifetime experience.
George Gladfelter, Professor of Astronomy at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, talked about the unique nature of this event.
“This is probably more spectacular than most of us will see in a lifetime if it occurs as predicted.” Gladfelter stated. “This particular shower has only been seen four or five times in the last 500 years.”
The Unicorn meteor shower, besides just being rare, will have distinct differences from other celestial events.
A normal meteor shower event usually lasts a couple of days, the Earth slowly merges into a lane of “cosmic dust traffic” from a comet or other celestial object. As the Earth slowly moves across the field of dust, meteors bombard our atmosphere and can be seen in greater frequency — up to 10-15 meteors an hour.
Here’s where the big difference comes in.
What we’re talking about Thursday night is a completely different story, we are going to be plowing right through the main intersection of “cosmic dust” cross traffic, so the cosmic dust will be coming at the Earth’s atmosphere very quickly at high frequency. The meteor shower peak could last as short as 20, maybe 40 minutes at the most. Some estimates put the number of meteors at five hundred, to a thousand meteors per hour.
That’s a huge difference.
If you’re looking to get a glimpse of this event, here’s how you can maximize your chances.
- Get out of town, find a wide, open area with minimal lights.
- Train you eyes, and cameras, toward the horizon facing Southeast by 9:30 p.m. this evening.
- Turn off your phones. Yes, I mean it. The blue light can prevent your eyes from adjusting to the natural light of meteors.
- The size of these meteors can be compared to grains of sand, so don’t worry about bringing a baseball glove — you won’t catch anything.
The atmosphere has weight believe it or not, and is quite formidable — protecting the Earth from the vast majority of incoming objects.
Gladfelter added “The mass between us and outer space is equivalent to somewhere around five to six feet of steel.”
With that in mind, sit back, relax, and keep your eyes on the horizon — Clear skies expected this evening with temperatures in the teens and 20s.