Unidentified Comet Lights Up the Skies For Centuries

Meteors from an enigmatic comet’s trajectory, a comet that has been lighting the skies for centuries but remained unseen all this time, were predicted to perform a sensational cosmic exhibit for people on Earth.

The meteors are known as the alpha Monocerotids​, due to the fact that they are located towards the Monoceros constellation or the Unicorn; therefore, the meteors are at times called the ‘unicorn’ shower.

A Unique Meteor Show

The alpha Monocerotids​ are pieces of dust that ruptured of a hidden comet and then burst into flames in Earth’s atmosphere to create shooting stars. The comet’s prolonged dust trajectory has previously lit up the night skies, with some of the most impressive and bright meteor showers in 1925, 1935, 1985, and 1995.

Basically, the alpha Monocerotids​ take place every year, but they usually only generate a small handful of shooting stars. This is most probably because Earth normally travels through the margin of the stream, instead of being struck by the more clumped trail in the core.

This month, meteor specialists Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center and Esko Lyytinen of the Finnish Fireball Network implied that our planet has a huge probability of passing through or close to this region of the alpha Monocerotids​ filled with meteors.

Due to the fact that this stream is rather lean, Jenniskens and Lyytinen said that the shower could generate hundreds of meteors while it explodes. Jenniskens had predicted a previous meteor shower, the one in 1995, long before it took place.

NASA Scientist Disagrees With the Prediction

However, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office chief Bill Cooke disagreed with the prediction, saying that there is a rather fat chance there may be no outburst at all. The indeterminacy comes from the unknown amount of time this comet needs to complete an orbit around the Sun. Researchers know the rotating periods of comets that generate fascinating meteors showers such as the Leonids and Perseids. However, Jenniskens and Lyytinen had to measure a vague estimate for the comet linked to the alpha Monocerotids​, due to the fact that it has not been directly seen.

Considering the timing of earlier explosions, the team implies that this comet orbit around the Sun once every 500 years or so. On the other hand, Cooke claims the estimate is to vague to clearly indicate another outstanding explosion.

“The intensity of the outburst is very dependent on the size of the parent comet’s orbit,” he said. “If it is much smaller, or larger, the distance from the stream center will be bigger, and there will not be any sky show, just the normal [alpha Monocerotids], puttering along with their normal rate of three or so meteors per hour.”

According to Cooke, he did not say this to imply that the researchers could be entirely wrong. As a matter of fact, he said that if there were a possibility, the number of meteors would provide a huge amount of data desperately needed for calculating a more accurate orbit for the comet that had been hiding this whole time.

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