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Your Sky Tonight: Potentially Dazzling Meteor Shower for North America

Your Sky Tonight: Potentially Dazzling Meteor Shower for North America

No plans for this evening? Our solar system may have an idea for you. At around 2am EDT (11pm PST) this evening, North America may be in store for a dazzling meteor shower as the Earth passes through debris ejected from the comet 209P/LINEAR.

This ‘dust’ was likely sloughed off 209P/LINEAR during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and is just now intersecting with the Earth’s orbit. If the comet was highly active during those periods, we could be in for a show. The shower is tentatively being called the May Camelopardalids. This name is derived from the expectation that the shower will appear to originate from the constellation Camelopardalis.

Camelopardalis IP

H.A. Ray‘s diagram of Camelopardalis’ stars. The word “Camelopardalis” intuitively translates to leopard-camel or ‘giraffe’. This diagram shows the stars which connect to form the giraffe shape that inspired the name.

“Some forecasters have predicted a meteor storm of more than 200 meteors per hour,” said Bill Cooke on NASA’s website. Cooke is the lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, a department within NASA that is responsible for analyzing the risks that meteors may pose to spacecrafts. “We have no idea what the comet was doing in the 1800s. The parent comet doesn’t appear to be very active now, so there could be a great show, or there could be little activity.”

Scientists at the Marshall Spaceflight Center predict the shower will be active from 10:30pm on May 23 to 7am on May 24 EDT and peak between 2am and 4am EDT on May 24. If you’re in an area of high light pollution or a region of North America that is expecting heavy cloud cover, you may want to check the event out on the NASA website. NASA will be offering a live feed of the event from Huntsville, Alabama and starting at around 11 pm EDT, Bill Cooke will be hosting a live web chat to field any questions you may have.

Which of you North American nerds will be viewing this potentially powerful light show this evening? Do you have faith that your hometown’s light pollution levels are low enough for a good show or will you be tuning in to the NASA website to ensure a good seat? Let us know in the comments section.

HT: NASA

IMAGES: Camelopardalis constellation map visualization by AugPi, Leonid meteor by Navicore

Comments

  1. Eric Teske says:

    I caught a pretty good one in central Indiana, it even left a smoke trail! Animated GIF on my bloggy blog http://www.ericteske.com/2014/05/camelopardalids-meteor-fireball-with.html

  2. Linnea says:

    One of the perks of living in rural Maine us that there is almost no light pollution, but it’s been pretty cloudy, so I still might miss it. 

  3. I drove out to the hills above Chatsworth,CA  and found a good dark spot. Saw about half a dozen was-it-or-wasn’t-it ones and one amazing full-shower-of-sparks-oh-my-god one. Was out for about 45 mins before the clouds rolled in at 12:30 or so.

  4. Noah Davis says:

    The shower is’t what they said itt’l be on the news! I only got a few streaks, not a sky full of them. Still very cool and once in a lifestime.

  5. AC says:

    I’ll be watching/photographing from south central Kentucky…right now the sky is clear, hopefully it stays that way!!

  6. Garry Bell says:

    Can I see it on Google sky?       ;)

  7. Jared Price says:

    I am going to be looking for the meteor shower in Louisiana. Fingers crossed. 

  8. Matt Silver says:

    I’m going to attempt some time-lapse photography tonight.  Hope it will be worth staying up tonight!