Watch out for a meteor outburst

Astronomers will be watching tomorrow for a possible outburst by a meteor shower. The alpha Aurigids are usually one of the year’s minor displays. But short-lived, strong peaks of 30-40 were seen in 1935, 1986 and 1994.

According to the Society for Popular Astronomy’s Meteor Section, another strong return may occur on September 1. The meteors are bright yellow, so the presence of a gibbous moon should not be too much of a problem.

Unfortunately for observers in the UK, eastern and central USA, any outburst is predicted to happen in daylight. Best places to view will be the western edge of the US and Hawaii.

Observations during darkness will be valuable from other parts of the world too, however, to help astronomers measure activity.

They are especially interested in the alpha Aurigids because, they come from debris left by a long-period comet with an orbital period of thousands of years.

Comet Kiess was last observed in 1911, the first time it had rounded the Sun since around 82 BC. Tomorrow’s meteors will be produced by rocky particles from the edge of the solar system – pieces of the comet’s original crust, 4.5 billion years old.

According to Sky & Telescope, the outburst could be annything between 20 and 300 meteors per hour.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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