A new meteor shower, called May Camelopardalis, is expected to peak in the early morning hours on Saturday, May 24, with some forecasters predicting more than 200 meteors per hour. The shower happens as Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR, which makes a full orbit of the sun every five years. Credit: NASA

In 2012, meteor expert Peter Jenniskens at NASA Ames Research Center was one of the first to announce that Earth was due for an encounter with debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR. In the early morning hours of Saturday May 24th 2014, Earth will be sandblasted with debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR, producing a meteor shower that has never been seen before.

Other meteor experts quickly confirmed this prediction. The most recent calculations indicate we might get a strong shower, but perhaps not a storm of meteors. Because this is a new meteor shower, we’re not sure exactly what to expect. Surprises are possible. As with all meteor showers, the only way to know for sure is to go outside on the night of the predicted peak and see for yourself.

The meteors will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis (camelopard), a very obscure northern constellation in the northern sky, close to the north celestial pole. This meteor shower better will be better viewed from the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere. The best viewing will be between 11pm to 1 am PDT.

meteor shower
The meteor shower gets its name because the space rocks appear to originate from the constellation Camelopardalis, also known as the giraffe, near the north star. Credit: NASA

What exactly is a meteor shower anyway? As comet dust enters Earth’s atmosphere, the resistance of the air on the space rocks, called meteoroids, makes it extremely hot. A moving streak, or “shooting star” is caused by glowing hot air as the meteoroid flies through the atmosphere. When Earth encounters many meteoroids at once, it’s called a meteor shower.

Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, filmed these meteors with low light video cameras as part of the Cameras for All-sky Meteor Surveillance project (CAMS) in early June of 2011 and 2012. The cameras have a field of view of 30 degrees wide and 20 degrees high. These meteors belong to a weak shower called the sigma Ursae Majorids (number 677 with code “SIM” in the IAU Meteor Shower Working list), a new shower detected by CAMS. They move in an orbit similar to that of 209P/Linear, but are seen annually in the period June 6-14. They may represent older dust ejecta from the comet. These meteors look much the same as those from the possible 2014 May 23/24 meteor shower of May Camelopardalids, anticipated from the close encounter of 209P/Linear with Earth. Credit: Peter Jenniskens

Where to Watch
The peak night of the shower is predicted for May 24, 2014. Skywatchers in southern Canada and the continental U.S. are especially well positioned to see the meteors on the night of May 24, 2014. SETI has a global meteor shower FLUXTIMATOR, which estimates the shower’s hourly meteor count on the night of May 23-24, 2014 from your location (simply select your location from the drop-down menu options to find the best time to watch the starry sky for shooting stars).

If you can’t step outside or weather conditions are poor, the YouTube video below will show a live broadcast of the shower, accompanied by commentary from meteor experts. The broadcast will begin at 11 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 23.

For more information visit: meteor.seti.org/

Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff
Source: Peter Jenniskens/NASA/SETI

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