The Alpha Monocerotids: The Unicorn of Meteor Showers?

Weather Blog

PEORIA, ILL. – The Alpha Monocerotid meteor shower is a little known meteor shower that, more often than not, produces little to no meteors. However, in 1925 and 1935 this shower produced more than 1000 meteors per hour and an outburst of meteors in 1985 (700 meteors per hour) and 1995 (400 meteors per hour) and a pair of researchers believe this could be another one of those years.

The Alpha Monocerotids appear to come from the faint constellation Monoceros the Unicorn. It seems fitting that this is where the radiant of the meteor shower is given that this event has the potential to be extraordinary.

The shower is expected to peak on Thursday, November 21st at 10:50 pm but, unlike other meteor showers, this shower will only last for minutes, not hours. In fact, the entire meteor shower is expected to take place in a 40-minute window, from 10:30 pm to 11:10 pm…if it happens at all.

Don’t get too excited…

It is possible that this shower could produce more than 400 meteors an hour, but it’s not likely. Even if it does, most of those meteors wouldn’t be visible. During the 1985 outburst, the shower only produced 34 meteors in a 16-minute window.

The source of the Alpha Monocerotid is unknown and the dust trail of this source is very narrow (about 26,000 feet wide) which makes these types of events difficult to predict.

On top of the uncertainty surrounding this shower, there’s a good chance the weather in Central Illinois won’t cooperate. Skies are expected to be mostly cloudy with clouds clearing after midnight. However, if the clouds can clear earlier than anticipated we may still be able to see it.

If the skies clear be sure to keep your expectations low, there’s no guarantee this will happen. However, if you’re willing to head out for 20-30 minutes on Thursday night you may happen to catch a glimpse of the Unicorn of meteor showers.

When and where to watch

  • Peak shower is expected around 10:50 pm on Thursday, November 21st, starting 20 minutes before and ending 20 minutes after.
  • ESE sky near the faint constellation Monoceros (just down and to the left of Orion). The radiant will be near the backend of the unicorn.
  • An outburst of 100-1000 meteors per hour is possible, but not likely or expected.
  • View from an area with little to no light pollution and away from trees. The radiant of the shower will be fairly low on the horizon.

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