This Memorial Day weekend is going to start with a bang, and we aren't talking about fireworks (though there may be some of those as well). We are going to be visited by a brand new meteor shower. The Camelopardalids meteor shower will be starting Friday, May 23rd. Astronomer's predict that the best part of the show will occur between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. EDT. This weekend with be the first time that Earth passes through the cloud of dust that comet 209P/LINEAR leaves behind, making this a never before see new meteor shower! What's more, experts say that this shower could rival the year's best Perseids shower, with up to 200 meteors per hour.
Comet 209P/LINEAR is a rather dim comet that orbits the Sun every 5 years, and as previously mentioned, this will be the first time that Earth passed through its trail. Fortunately for us, it seems that we will be passing through a rather large hunk of it's remains. In fact, some astronomers are predicting that Earth will pass through the remnants of all of the debris trails that were left between 1083 C.E. and 1924 C.E. That's some 800 years worth of comet remains!
As such, the Camelopardalid meteor shower will likely be a meteor storm producing hundreds of meteors per hour. When compared to other well-known meteor showers, the Camelopardalids could potentially exceed all of these in relation to hourly meteor count. Of course, we won't actually know what we are in for until we pass through the trail, but things seem promising.
How To View It:
When ever you hope to see a meteor shower, clouds are always a factor. The other thing that every star gazer has to fear is the moon. Often, it is so bright that it obscures even the brightest meteors. Fortunately, this Friday, the moon will not be about during the best part of the shower, as it doesn't rise until 1:41 a.m. Even then, the moon will be a waning crescent, which won't impact one's ability to view the meteor shower.
Like most meteor showers, the Camelopardalids gets its name from the constellation that it radiates from, Cameloparda. It should be easy to find because it is very close to two easily recognizable constellations, the Big Dipper and Little Dipper.
Unfortunately, you will likely only be able to see it from the Norther Hemisphere, as we will be passing through the trail when it is night in the North. However, don't fret too much. If the weather is poor or you are not in a prime area for viewing, Slooh will live broadcast the shower, accompanied by commentary from a handful of meteor experts. The broadcast will begin at 11 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 23.
When the Earth passes through the debris trail that is produced by a comet or other orbiting body, the chunks of rock and material burn up in the Earth's atmosphere and form blazing balls of light, which we call shooting or falling stars. And of course, people love to wish on these blazing beauties, so get your wishes ready, because this weekend is likely to be filled with many opportunities to make your dreams come true.