Skywatch: A meteor outburst is possible late this week

The Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks

A popular fall meteor shower is expected to peak early this week but sadly the moon will not cooperate with the show.

The Leonid meteor shower is caused by debris from the Tempel-Tuttle Comet. In a good year, you can see up to 10-20 meteors per hour.

The waning gibbous moon will wash out all but the brightest meteors on Monday morning. Still, if you’re in a dark spot & your far away from the city lights look up and you may see a meteor streak across the sky.

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The shower’s radiant will be in the east near the constellation Leo after midnight. But this isn't the meteor outburst the title of this article speaks of, more on that in a second.

Last Quarter Moon

The Last Quarter Moon will arrive on Tuesday afternoon at 4:11 p.m. So if you’re out Tuesday night look for the half-moon hanging in the sky.

The Moon Meets Leo

Speaking of the moon & Leo the two will meet up in the middle of the week. One Wednesday morning the half-moon will be in Leo. The two will be in the southeastern sky.

Possible Meteor Outburst

I mentioned a possible meteor outburst late in the week. The Alpha Moncerotid meteor shower is a minor shower that has been known to produce outbursts of meteors in the past. In 1925 & 1935 the shower reached "meteor storm" levels of more than 1000 an hour.

In 1985 & 1995 the outbursts weren't quite as prolific. But scientists say conditions this year are similar to what we saw back in 1995 when meteor rates reached 400 per hour. Here's the thing, though: this is expected to have a VERY brief window.

The outburst is expected Thursday evening between roughly 11:15 p.m. & midnight. The radiant will be near the unicorn, the constellation Monoceros in the east-southeastern sky at the time of the predicted outburst.

I can't stress the fact that this is a prediction and that outbursts are very hard to predict. Having said that, if you're out on Thursday evening at the right time and the skies are cooperating look up and you might get a great show.

The Moon, Mars & Mercury Meet Up

Early risers will get a treat on Saturday morning. That’s then a waning crescent moon will hang in the eastern sky with Mars and Mercury just below it. You’ll need a clear view of the horizon to see all three. Look in the east about an hour before sunrise. Happy hunting!