Lunar conditions will be ideal in 2018, because the moon will be new in early December. Wiegert's team predicts that the 2018 performance should be weaker than last year's, with perhaps 35 meteors an hour. Observations in 2018 will help refine predictions for the future.
However, "2023 looks pretty solid," Brown says. "We have some reasons to suspect that may be the stronger of the bunch." The 2023 event might yield as many as 200 meteors an hour, surpassing the Perseids and Geminids. "It's not a storm, but it's a very strong outburst," Brown says. The moon will rise before midnight but won't dampen the display during the early evening hours when the shower should be strongest.
Alas, as the astronomers acknowledge, forecasting meteor showers shares a trait with meteorology: uncertainty. "You're in a very awkward situation here," says David Hughes, an astronomer at the University of Sheffield in England who was not affiliated with the researchers. "You'd hate to be the person who told people, 'Don't bother looking,' and then the sky fills up with meteors!" Still, Hughes worries that, because the Andromedid meteoroid stream's orbit extends toward Jupiter, that planet's gravity may have jostled the stream about, hindering accurate predictions for future showers.
"What do you have to lose?" asks Donald Yeomans of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It may disappoint you, or it may rise well above your expectations. That's just the nature of these meteor showers; you never quite know."
Indeed, without sacrificing any sleep, observers in the Northern Hemisphere can see whether the Andromedid meteors were the 21st century's one-hit wonder—or will become a more enduring presence on the celestial stage.