Gamma Delphinids: Mysterious meteor shower may return tonight
Shower last reported in 1930.
One of the most mysterious meteor showers in history may occur early in the morning over the United States on June 11. Known as the Gamma Delphinids, the meteor shower has only happened once before in recorded history. It's due back tonight, but nobody knows for sure if it will happen and what we'll see if it does.
According to their observations, the moon was bright and nearly full, yet they still saw a large number of meteors. Typically, very few meters are ever visible under bright moonlight.
The cause of the meteor shower is thought to be an unknown long-period comet. Long period comets have long orbits around the sun which can take them hundreds of years to complete. As comets sweep around the sun, they leave behind a thin trail of dust. When the Earth passes through these dusty trails, the particles strike the upper atmosphere and burn up, resulting in a meteor shower.
It's believed that the Gamma Delphinids will return tonight after a hiatus of over 80 years, when the Earth may pass through this mysterious stream of particles once again.
The stream is thought to be quite narrow, so the meteor shower will probably last less than an hour.
The meteor shower will appear over the United States with the strongest showing over the northeastern states at 4:30 AM in the morning. For observers in Hawaii and the Western United States, the shower will take place earlier. West Coast observers should be outside before 1:30 AM.
There are no guarantees. Scientists speculate the shower could be extraordinarily intense, producing dozens of bright meteors, or it may not occur at all. However, since the moon will not be visible in the sky, anything that does happen should be easily visible under dark sky conditions.
The meteors may appear anywhere in the sky, so there is no particular place or direction to look. The best viewing position is a reclining one where most of the sky is visible to you. A telescope or binoculars will limit your ability to see the meteors, so just look with the unaided eye.
There are no guarantees anything will be visible tonight, however opportunities to see a meteor shower such as this one come only once in a lifetime, so if you are an enthusiast, it may be worth the hour's time to see if anything happens.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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