Comet 209P/LINEAR and Camelopardalid Meteor Shower

Published at 11:48 p.m. on May 23, 2014 | Modified at 11:48 p.m. on May 23, 2014

It's not every day that we experience a brand new meteor shower. After all, the most reliable showers, like the famous Perseids every August 11, have been observed annually for over two thousand years. Sure, there are famous sometimes-showers that occasionally perform but are mostly yawners. The greatest of these is the amazing Leonid shower. In the wee pre-dawn hours of November 18, 2001, it produced six brilliant green shooting stars each minute, nearly all of which left behind long lingering trails like Cheshire cat smiles. That was probably the best meteor display of the past half century. But now, famed meteor expert Peter Jenniskens joins Russian astronomer Mikhail Maslov in predicting a rich new meteor shower created by passages though our celestial neighborhood of comet Linear. They think we'll get a rich enough shower to produce at least three or four "shooting stars" per minute. It will be a brand new event. Other meteor experts are slightly more conservative, but still think we should see a solid display on the night of May 23-24, and the individual meteors could be unusually brilliant. All of this will unfold during a two or three hour period. Of all places in the world, the United States and southern Canada alone will be best positioned to observe these brief and potentially spectacular fireworks. It should occur starting just before 2 AM and last almost until dawn. It's even a convenient Friday night or, rather, early Saturday morning. The moon will be a harmless crescent, so the sky won't be spoiled by bright moonlight. And of course, SLOOH will be employing its special low-light, super-sensitivity equipment to bring the event to your computer monitor live, in real-time. As for direction, expect the meteors to emanate from the north, radiating from the very faint constellation of Camelopardalis the Giraffe, which will be located exactly beneath Polaris, the North Star. We'll keep you updated in the days to come. But for now, mark your calendar to set the alarm the night of May 23 - 24, the early hours of Saturday morning.

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