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Major Meteor Shower Could Hit West Coast, Oregon, Washington

Published 11/11/2019 at 4:55 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Major Meteor Shower Could Hit West Coast, Oregon, Washington

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(Portland, Oregon) – One seriously impressive display of meteor pyrotechnics could hit the skies of the Washington coast and the Oregon coast this month, along with inland areas like Seattle, Yakima, Portland, Medford and Pendleton. The Alpha Monocerotids are coming later in the month, and if that's not a name you're familiar with that's just fine. It's an obscure meteor shower by most standards, not like the Orionids or the Persieds. (Above: Arch Cape near Cannon Beach - not a meteor shower, but starfall gives that impression in camera).

This year's Alpha Monocerotids could be particularly sparkly, however, according to two NASA scientists. The pair - Esko Lyytinen and Peter Jenniskens, who also work with SETI – say there's a good chance an enormous but short burst of activity of especially bright meteors will hit the skies - a whole lot of them. They even called it the possibility of a “meteor storm.”

It could be dozens of meteors in a short amount of time.

Before you start thinking this sounds like something out of the Netflix series Raising Dion, there are two problems with this. The big one: it's going to be brief, and Jenniskens and Lyytinen said you best not be late. In North America, it hits the skies on November 21, and the show will start between 8:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and then going for less than hour. Other areas of the world get it later.

“There is a good chance to observe a short-lived outburst of the alpha Monocerotids in the morning of the night 2019 November 21 - 22,” Lyytinen said in their paper on the subject. “Observers are encouraged to watch for possible alpha Monocerotids in the last hours of the night, from 4h15m UT onwards.”

The second big problem, at least for the Oregon coast, Washington coast and areas inland, is that here it will be low on the eastern horizon. This creates better chances the farther east you go, especially beyond the Cascades. The Oregon and Washington coast will be dealing with the coast range mountains immediately to the east.

“This outburst is caused by the dust released by a long period comet, but the comet itself is still unknown,” Lyytinen said.

Whatever comet is causing this, Earth is wandering through its dust trail, and one section will be extremely dense. That will create the heavy but short outburst. The NASA scientists say it will likely be all over with in 40 minutes.

Weather in Oregon and Washington will, of course, be the spectre looming over this galactic bit of fun. That could literally rain on this interstellar parade. It is November after all, and conditions – especially along the coasts of Washington and Oregon – are known for their slurpy, goopy state.

It turns out this wasn't the first time this meteor shower has made for a wild show.

“This shower has previously produced four outbursts, in 1925, 1935, 1985 and 1995, of which 1995 was already predicted and the photographic observations revealed the exact radiant,” Lyytinen said.

When viewing in Oregon and Washington, you'll want to get out of city lights. To maximize your sightings on the Oregon coast, high vantage places like Manzanita's Neahkahnie Mountain or Depoe Bay's Cape Foulweather lessen the blockage from the east. The eastern face of the coast range will be your best bet for those living on the coast or in Willamette Valley towns. Oregon Coast Hotels for this event - Where to eat - Map - Virtual Tour - See Oregon Coast Weather - See Washington Coast Weather.

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