• Kyodo


A team of Japanese experts observed what they identified as the Phoenicids meteor shower over the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in 58 years since the first Japanese Antarctic expedition team discovered it.

The team had projected the appearance and observed it Tuesday from the Canary Islands, with Junji Nakamura, 91, who observed it 58 years ago as a member of the expedition team.

The meteor shower was first observed in December 1956 by the Antarctic expedition team on the observation ship Soya when it cruised in the Indian Ocean during an expedition to the South Pole. At the peak, the Phoenicids showed 300 meteors per hour, but there has been no report since then that the meteor shower had appeared.

Junichi Watanabe of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, who is a member of the expert team, said they determined what they had observed was the Phoenicids because of several meteors appearing per hour and the direction they streamed.

“That is what I remember. The calculation of the appearance was correct,” Nakamura was quoted by the team as saying, watching the slow shooting of the meteors, which is one of the features of the Phoenicids.

A meteor shower is caused by streams of cosmic debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The astronomical body causing the Phoenicids had long been thought to be a comet discovered in 1819, but this comet has not been observed for long time.

But a small planet discovered in 2003 was in recent years identified as the no-longer-racing comet. Mikiya Sato of the Kawasaki Municipal Science Museum calculated the return of the meteor shower, based on the orbit of the comet. “I’m so relieved that the meteors appeared at the time I had projected,” Sato said after he observed them from the islands.

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