Rare Aurigid Meteor Shower to Appear September 1

August 30, 2007

A meteor shower on the morning of September 1 will present a rare greeting from the distant Oort cloud located at the far edges of our solar system.

The two-hour Aurigid meteor shower is predicted to peak around 4:30 a.m. Pacific daylight time on September 1, peppering Earth's sky with up to 200 shooting stars an hour.

Scientists are already mobilizing to capture every ounce of data about the unusual occurrence, since it's the only display of its kind expected for at least 50 years.

Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through the dusty tail of comets orbiting the sun.

But unlike most of these light shows, which are caused by the trails of comets that loop around the sun in a couple hundred years, the Aurigids are castoffs from a so-called long-period comet that orbits the sun once every 2,000 years.

(Related: "Perseid Meteor Shower to Peak This Weekend" [August 10, 2007].)

The meteor shower therefore represents a unique opportunity to study the far reaches of the solar system, scientists say.

Uncertain Spectacle

Astronomers will use wide-field cameras and upper atmosphere techniques to view the shower. But the naked eye will be the best tool—next to an alarm clock—for regular meteor buffs.

For people in western North America, the meteors will appear to be coming from the constellation Auriga.

If the early birds get lucky, they'll see plenty of bright blue and green meteors burning up in the sky.

But no one knows for sure if the meteor shower will live up to the high expectations.

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