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Monday could bring a big meteor shower if all conditions are met

If the weather holds and the right conditions are met in space, Manitobans can see a spectacular meteor shower Monday night.

Scott Young, a planetary astronomer at the Manitoba Museum, said there’s a chance a very significant meteor shower could be seen.

“There is a possibility, and I stress the possibility, of a large meteor eruption. Basically, there’s going to be a whole bunch of shooting stars all at once,” Young said. “The reason it’s a possibility is because of the source of this particular meteor shower, not a regular comet…this one is a comet that’s kind of disintegrated, so it’s in all these pieces, which is good if it’s coming our way.” But because it’s decayed, we can’t be sure it’s close enough to cause these things.

Young said if the event occurs we could see thousands of meteors per hour, which would be “10 times better” than any other meteor event in recent history.

Unfortunately, Young said people won’t know until it actually happens.

He said the comet originally disintegrated in 1995 and the cloud of space dust it left behind has grown wider over the years. But if the debris doesn’t move fast enough, nothing will happen.

“So the thought is that Earth will hit the edge of the debris cloud on Monday night…there’s a lot of solid science behind it, but it’s basically a mathematical prediction. Really, whether it happens or not will actually be a good test of our understanding of how these comets and meteor showers work after they dissipate in this way. It’s a good way to advance science, and when it happens it’s going to be a fun thing to watch.”

Young said even if space conditions are met, Manitoba will depend on the weather for whether people can see it or not, as rain is in the forecast that will bring plenty of cloud cover.

“All of this activity takes place above the cloud plane. So if it rains here on earth, you won’t see anything.”

When the weather clears, Young suggests people move away from the city lights and find a dark spot, as it offers the best opportunity to see the shower.

If cloud cover persists, the Manitoba Museum is planning another way to find the meteors.

“The museum will be doing a live stream and when it’s clear we’ll have a camera. If it’s not clear, we’ll actually use radio detection. If you listen to a radio station that is too far away to pick up and for a while every time a meteor passes by, the radio waves will bounce off the meteor and you can hear the radio station for a second. So we will actually be able to hear the meteors with a radio station.”

If the shower hits, it should start around 11:45 p.m. Monday and last until around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday.

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