Arid meteor shower makes new appearance in southern hemisphere skies

A meteor shower in the Aquila constellation Lubo Ivanko/Alamy
Astronomers discovered a new meteor shower in southern hemisphere night skies. Flurries of shooting stars were created when Earth passed through dusty material that was scattered throughout space by the comet15P/Finlay. Astronomers have named the Arid meteor Shower, as it appears to be coming from Ara. This celestial phenomenon could provide researchers with insight into the composition of the comet.

Since the discovery of 15P/Finlay in 1886, scientists have been regularly observing it. Recent years have seen a variety of independent analyses that indicated that the planet would sweep through dense dust clouds left behind by the comet in 2021. These dust clouds were formed during its passage through the inner solar system in 1995 and 2008. However, no one knows for sure if these predictions will be realized in visible meteors.

In order to find out, South American observers who were well-placed for seeing the meteors were alerted as the nights of expected activity approached. This was in late September or early October. Researchers even sent teams of specialists with meteor cameras to remote areas in Chile.


Meteorologists were thrilled to see that meteorologists could successfully observe meteors at the times predicted. Jrmie Vaubaillon, a meteorologist at LObservatoire de Paris who was one of the people who predicted the meteor activity, said that although I have been researching this topic for over 20 years, I've never seen the meteor shower form.

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Although it is not yet known if the Arids will return in the future, astronomers will have valuable data from the 2021 event.

Ye Quanzhi, a University of Maryland researcher who also modelled dust streams from comet 15P/Finlay compared the meteors to sample return missions in which instead of sending out a spacecraft to collect samples they come to us. He says that comets are made up of loosely collected dust and ice. Therefore, we can learn a lot about the building blocks of comets by studying meteoroids as they enter Earth's atmosphere.

Ye is particularly interested in the size distribution of the dust particles left behind by the comet. This is basically a measurement of the number of large particles compared to smaller particles. It can be calculated by looking at the amount of bright and faint meteors observed during the Arid rain.

He says that the size distribution of dust is an easily measured observable. It also provides clues about how small cometary grains are glued together.

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