The Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower isn’t as legendary as say the Perseids or the Leonids. However, it will be in about 200-300 years! Yes, Earthlings living in 2220-2420 A.D. will rave about the spectacular show the Alpha Capricornids put on, just like we rave about the largest meteor showers of the year! In fact, astronomers predict that the annual Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower in 200-300 years will actually be bigger and better than any meteor shower we currently experience on Earth today, even on a good year. When we view the Alpha Capricornids today, we’re basically watching the pre-show to what our descendants will see!
What Is the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower?
When the debris field of a broken-up comet passes through the Earth’s orbit, pieces of rock burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere producing “shooting stars,” also known as “falling stars.” When we can see more than a few of these in an hour in our nighttime sky, we call that a meteor shower. When we’re really lucky, we get to see bigger pieces burning up and producing fireballs. These produce spectacularly bright explosions often followed by a loud sonic boom a minute to a few minutes later. Mother Nature puts on the best fireworks show in the world and she even brings her on firecrackers!
The comet 169P/NEAT broke apart in the Early to Middle Bronze Age, about 3000 – 2000 B.C. Approximately half of it turned into particles of various sizes: mostly dust, gravel, and pebbles but also some bigger pieces capable of becoming fireballs. The resulting debris field brought forth a new meteor shower in the summertime night sky of the Ancients. What would they have thought about this new celestial event that suddenly appeared one dark night and then came back each year thereafter around the same time? Were the Gods praising them for something they did? Could they have thought it was a bad omen?
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This was around the time the Egyptian pyramids were being built and the sea-faring Phoenicians were building giant trading centers on the Levant Coast of present-day Syria and Lebanon. Sumer and Akkad were city-states in Mesopotamia where agriculture had become very sophisticated so there was a need to understand astrology and the changing of the seasons. The advent of a significant new meteor shower would have been duly noted, carefully studied, and recorded by all of these cultures — perhaps interpreted in different ways.
While the Alpha Capricornids would not have been as strong as the Perseids, the ancients would have surely noticed these shooting stars emanated from a different part of the sky — and from one of their zodiac signs at least part of the time.
Why Will the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower Be Bigger 200-300 years from now?
A denser part of the broken up 169P/NEAT comet debris will be passing through Earth’s orbit during this time. This will produce more shooting stars per hour and the meteor shower will be stronger and very noticeable for more calendar days. There will also be more fireballs! Wish I could be there… where did I put my time machine?
When Is the Peak of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower?
The peak of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower is always around July 30. However, this year, the peak will range from July 28 to August 2. On the west coast of the United States, the best viewing time is predicted to be around midnight. However, these predictions are less accurate than ten-day weather forecasts so don’t count on them. Check the skies whenever you can during this period, and you may be rewarded.
When and Where Can I See the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower?
The full date range for the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower is July 3 to August 15. The radiant point, the point at which the meteors seem to originate, will move across the sky during the full date range of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower. Starting around July 27, it should appear that the meteors are emanating from the Capricorn Constellation. Earlier in July, the radiant point will be in the Sagittarius Constellation.
2019 Forecast for the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower
Here’s the best news. Around the peak of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower, we’ll get a new moon or only a 2-6 percent crescent moon. This will give us a darker sky and we’ll be able to see the fainter shooting stars if we can get away from the urban lights. To increase your chance you’ll see shooting stars, you’ll want to look in darkest patches of the southwestern sky.
Happy Birthday Harry Potter!
July 30 just happens to be Harry Potter’s birthday. So, at the peak of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower, you can get your wand out and celebrate the famous wizard’s birthday (save me a piece of cake please) and enjoy the magic in the sky that night. Seems fitting doesn’t it? Fun for adults and kids alike!
The Alpha Capricornids Are Known For Bright Fireballs
The Alpha Capricornids have a reputation for producing sudden shockingly bright fireballs when you least expect it. In the year 2019, you’ll probably only get a few shooting stars blazing across the sky at low to medium intensity (remember, this is going to change big time for your descendants!). However, the fireballs this meteor shower can produce can be intense with a magnitude of 4 on the brightness scale. This is about the same brightness as Venus in the evening and early morning sky, i.e. bright enough to shine through brightly even before astronomical darkness arrives and there is still a faint sun glow in the sky. So, if you see a big bright pop of light just after sunset, you may be seeing a fireball from the Alpha Capricornids!
There’s Some Overlap with the Perseids Meteor Shower
The date range for the Perseids Meteor Shower is July 17 to August 26. The peak will be in the nighttime sky starting on Aug 12 and in the early morning hours of August 13. This means you can watch for early Perseids in the northeastern sky while you enjoy the peak of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower. Two shows in one! This is a double gift too because this year (2019), the moon is going to be full or near full around the peak of the Perseids which will interfere with the best viewing nights for the Perseids.
Keep a Meteor Shower Diary
Keeping a detailed journal is a sign of a good astrologer. A meteor shower diary can be a fun way to start because you’ll want to share your experiences with others and over time, you’ll begin to see interesting patterns emerge. You can compare your observations with historical data online.
You can think of the Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower today as the “pre-show” to what your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandkids will see in 200-300 years. We are only seeing the outskirts of the 169P/NEAT debris field, but they will be treated to a spectacular show put on by pieces of the densest part of the debris field burning up in the atmosphere. You can even leave them your sightings and personal thoughts in a letter to be passed down through the generations. Or… you can simply pass down your meteor shower diary.