Birth of a new meteor shower expected on December 12

Birth of a new meteor shower expected on December 12

Meteor watchers are gearing up for the birth of a new meteor shower, the λ-Sculptorids, on December 12, 2023, with prime viewing from Eastern Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.

Meteor forecasting experts, including Jeremie Vaubaillon and his team, are calling on skywatchers globally to prepare for the birth of a new meteor shower. This celestial event is predicted to occur on December 12, 2023, between 08:00 and 12:30 UTC, with the best visibility expected in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.

The forthcoming shower, stemming from Comet 46P/Wirtanen, is particularly noteworthy because this comet, a near-Earth object (NEO), has never been associated with a meteor shower before. Five years ago, Comet 46P/Wirtanen made an extremely close approach to Earth, and the impending meteor shower is a result of this encounter.

Despite expectations of a relatively modest display, with only a few visible meteors per hour, Vaubaillon emphasizes the significance of even a small number of sightings. These observations would indicate a substantial number of particles in the comet’s debris stream, which is predominantly composed of small meteoroids. Such data is invaluable for space agencies assessing the risk posed to spacecraft by these particles.

The study, titled “A new meteor shower from comet 46P/Wirtanen expected in December 2023,” provides a comprehensive analysis of the comet’s behavior and potential interaction with Earth. Utilizing dynamic tools for meteoroid streams, the researchers identified a potential collision course with Earth on the forecasted date. The anticipated slow entry velocity of the meteoroids suggests that the meteors may appear dim, adding to the challenge of observation.

This predicted shower is of scientific interest due to its potential to reveal insights into the size distribution of meteoroids, particularly in the millimeter range. Past encounters between Earth and the comet’s meteoroid stream have likely gone unreported, possibly due to the unique ejection velocities required to bring large particles to Earth.

The radiant of the shower is near the λ-Sculptoris star, leading to the proposed name λ-Sculptorids for the shower. Although the exact timing of the shower’s peak may vary, and observations might be challenging due to the meteoroids’ low entry velocity and small size, study authors strongly encourage enthusiasts and scientists alike to observe and report their findings to the International Meteor Organization (IMO).


1 Birth of a new meteor shower – SpaceWeather – December 10, 2023

2 A new meteor shower from comet 46P/Wirtanen expected in December 2023 – Astronomy & Astrophysics – December 6, 2023 – https://arxiv.org/pdf/2312.02636.pdf


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