After a new and highly anticipated meteor shower, astronomers and meteor enthusiasts all over the world are gearing up for its peak next week. This exciting event, which is expected to be named soon, was described in an article published on the preprint server arXiv. The report credits world-renowned meteorologist Jeremie Vaubaillon, from the Paris Observatory in France, with the discovery of this new celestial phenomenon.
According to the study, this new meteor shower is set to make its grand entrance on Thursday morning (the 12th) between 5:00 and 9:30 a.m. Brasília time. The possible name being considered for the shower is based on the proximity of the radiant, which is located near the star Lambda Sculptoris.
However, despite the excitement surrounding this event, researchers believe that the cause of this meteor shower can be attributed to comet 46P/Wirtanen. This relatively small comet, measuring an estimated diameter of 1.2 kilometers, has an orbital period of 5.4 years. It was first captured on film by the American astronomer Carl A. Wirtanen on January 17, 1948. However, due to a limited number of initial observations, it took over a year to officially identify it as a short-period comet.
In December 2018, the NASA-released National Solar System image of Comet 46P/Wirtanen captured the attention of astronomers and space enthusiasts around the world. On December 16th of that year, the comet passed within a few million kilometers of Earth, which is approximately thirty times the distance between Earth and Mercury.
Comet 46P/Wirtanen usually has to travel a significant distance around Earth before it becomes visible. However, during its most recent visit, it came closer to Earth than ever before, making it the twelfth closest approach of a comet to our planet in modern history. Additionally, it was one of the brightest comets observed in the last two decades.
Prior to its 2018 visit, Comet 46P/Wirtanen had been seen in 2007, 2012, and 2017. Based on computational models, astronomers predicted that Earth would encounter a trail of debris during both 2007 and 2018, which could potentially lead to meteor showers. However, no official records of such meteor showers were documented. Nevertheless, the astronomers who made these predictions closely followed the evolution of the phenomenon and are currently awaiting peer review of their findings.
Despite the excitement surrounding this extraordinary event, the discoverers of the new meteor shower have stated that observations will be quite challenging due to the slow entry velocity and relatively small sizes of the meteoroids. Nevertheless, they encourage meteor enthusiasts to conduct scientific observations and share their findings with the International Meteor Organization (IMO).
As for visibility, the new meteor shower may not be easily seen in Brazil, according to astronomer Marcelo Zurita. Zurita, who presides over the Paraibana Astronomy Association (APA) and is a member of the Brazilian Astronomical Society (SAB), the technical director of the Brazilian Meteor Observation Network (BRAMON), and a columnist for Olhar Digital, explains that the shower is not well-distributed because it is relatively new. Moreover, the peak of the meteor activity is expected to occur during the morning hours, with an estimated maximum of 10 meteors per hour.
However, individuals located in Australia will have the best opportunity to witness this new meteor storm. Even though it may not be easy to spot the meteors at the beginning of the night on the 12th, the spectacle will be worth the effort. Zurita advises that since these meteor trails are generated by small particles and enter Earth’s atmosphere at a relatively low speed of around 11 km/s, they might not produce intense light. Despite this, he encourages everyone interested in observing meteors to seize this opportunity and enjoy the celestial show.
In conclusion, the eagerly awaited meteor shower, discovered by renowned meteorologist Jeremie Vaubaillon, is expected to peak next week. Although it may not be easily visible in Brazil, those in Australia will have the best chance of witnessing this astronomical event. As we eagerly await the shower’s arrival, astronomers and meteor enthusiasts around the world are eagerly preparing to study and document this stunning celestial display.