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Witness the potential return of a 19th century meteor shower

Geminids meteor shower (Wikimedia photo)

Meteor showers are some of the most sought after astronomical events of all time!

Each year, the Earth passes into the debris of many remnants of comets and the debris is seen as many bright or faint streaks of light.

During the calendar year, we can witness at least seven major meteor showers and some additional less popular and more obscure events.

As we reach the end of 2018, we still have some remaining Leonid meteors streaking across our Arizona skies, as well as the upcoming Geminid shower, which should peak around mid December.

Observers in 1872 and 1885 witnessed a most amazing and intense meteor shower coming from the constellation of Andromeda. This amazing event took place in early December of both years and have now becomes known as the Andromedid meteor shower!

As stated before, the source of these meteors, are comets!

The prime candidate for the Andromedid meteor shower, is an old comet known as Biela’s Comet. It was first observed back in 1772 and orbits the Sun once every 6.6 years.

Biela’s Comet broke up in 1846 and when it was seen again in 1852 it appeared as two separate comets.

Comets can sometimes break apart as they suffer the heat and gravity by passing close to the Sun.

On Nov. 27, 1872, observers around the world noticed a major meteor storm, with hourly rates as high as 3,000 meteors in one hour!

The debris from the now split comet is thought to be the source of this great shower.

Another great outburst of meteors were seen by observers between 1871 and 1885 as some have even claimed that pieces of this meteor shower, may have been the source of the Great Chicago fire, when the cometary debris may have been close to Earth on Oct. 8, 1871.

That theory has to be taken lightly!

Whatever the case, this shower was rather intense in 2011 and may also be one to watch in 2018 and the year 2023.

Debris from the comet which was released back in 1649, may be the fuel for this new potential outburst.

With any luck and clear skies, look to the northeast sky beginning on the night of Dec. 5 and the evening of Dec. 6.

We may be in for a surprise and even if you see just a few meteors, know that the source of this shower, Biela’s Comet, created quite a stir back in 1877, when some astronomers predicted that one of the pieces of the split comet would hit the Earth — nothing happened.

If you still see nothing, get set for the more reliable meteor shower, the Geminids, peaking on the night of Dec. 13 into the 14.

Look for these meteors in the northeast sky starting around 10 p.m.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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