An entirely new meteor shower will occur later this year and it may never happen again. For about a 10-day period at the end of September into October (with the peak predicted for October 7th), the “Finlay-id” meteor shower will send small pieces of comet dust over the southern part of the planet.
Unfortunately, not many people will be able to observe for two reasons. It will only be visible in the southernmost parts of the Earth and the meteors will be extremely hard to see as they will be exceptionally faint. In an interview with Space.com, Diego Janches, who is a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, described this event as being “…not only an interesting meteor shower but also a very difficult meteor shower to observe.”
It is believed that the meteor shower will come from the constellation Ara (or the Altar) which is located not far from the Scorpius constellation beneath the scorpion’s tail. There are seven stars in the Ara constellation as well as several known exoplanets.
The reasoning behind meteor showers is because when Earth travels around the sun, sometimes it moves through debris left by asteroids and comets. Normally, the clouds of debris remain in the same location which why once a year Earth has its annual meteor showers. As for Finlay-id, our planet will travel through the dust left behind from the two-mile wide Comet 15P/Finlay. While experts don’t think that this event will ever happen again, if it does, it won’t occur on a yearly basis.
The small granules from Comet 15P/Finlay have been slowed down by the solar wind as well as the gravitational perturbations from our sun and Jupiter. This is why Earth will travel through it later this year which will cause a meteor shower.
But witnessing it will not be easy as Janches explained, “It is going to be a difficult meteor shower to observe, because the meteors are going to be very slow,” adding that when we see a shooting star, “We observe either the light that is produced when they interact with the atmosphere, or the ionization that they produce when they interact with the atmosphere.” However, since Finlay-id will only be traveling at a speed of about 6.8 miles per second (11 km/s, this makes either scenario extremely difficult.
In order to properly observe the meteors, equipment that can detect these slow-moving tiny particles will be needed. And only those living in the very far south will have a chance of seeing them with the special equipment – such as those living in South Africa or New Zealand, although Janches will observe them from southern Argentina with his equipment.
Astronomers still have a lot of work to do in order to better understand this unique event.