An exciting new meteor shower – the Camelopardalids – might peak this Friday night and Saturday morning (May 23-24, 2014). Several predictions suggest you might see anywhere from 100 to 400 meteors per hour (the activity of August Perseids have 100 meteors per hour), but there’s even an outside chance that the celestial spectacle could briefly become a meteor “storm,” with more than 1,000 arriving per hour! . The Camelopardalids will be debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR, a very dim comet that orbits the sun every five years, on the evening of May 23, and the morning of May 24 the Earth might be sandblasted with debris from this comet, resulting in a fine display of meteors, or shooting stars.
- Observing the show
The meteors will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis (camelopard), a very obscure northern constellation, – is in the northern sky, close to the north celestial pole. Its name is derived from early Rome, where it was thought of as a composite creature, described as having characteristics of both a camel and a leopard. Nowadays we call such a creature a giraffe! Since meteor in annual showers take their names from the constellation from which they appear to radiate – and since this meteor shower might become an annual event
- When and where to look?
The peak night of the shower is predicted for May 23-24, 2014. Models suggest that the best viewing hours are between 06:00 and 08:00 UTC on May 24.
The meteors will appear all over the sky (so you’ll want to look in whatever direction gives you the darkest view.) But follow their bright paths backward, and they’ll lead you to a location in the dim constellation of Camelopardalis, the Giraffe, about 12° from Polaris. Camelopardalis is a circumpolar constellation, which means that, rather than moving from east to west across the night sky, it goes around Polaris, the North Star, so it’s up all night. It’s also easy to find because it’s close to the Big Dipper and Little Dipper, two easily recognizable constellations.
- It will be a good observation?
Check the weather forecast to find out if the place you have chosen, the sky is clear. If there are no clouds you will have luck, since nothing will prevent you to see the meteors.. Once you’re all settled in, give yourself at least 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adapt to the dark. How do you know if your eyes have adapted? A good rule of thumb says if you can see all seven of the Little Dipper’s main/brightest stars you’ll see plenty of meteors. If you can’t spot all 7 it’s not a big deal, that’s just under optimal conditions.
- How many meteors will I see?
The outburst will be brief, lasting just a few hours, though a somewhat longer duration is possible. Moonlight from a slender waning crescent won’t be a problem, but you have to take into consideration that when they first rays of the Sun come onto the horizon, the magic will disappear.
Several predictions suggest you might see anywhere from 100 to 400 meteors per hour (the activity of August Perseids have 100 meteors per hour). That means you could perhaps see a few meteors per minute. Some predictions suggest there’s even an outside chance that the celestial spectacle could briefly become a meteor “storm,” with more than 1,000 arriving per hour!
- Why this happen?
Comet 209P/LINEAR passed through perihelion (is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet where it is nearest to the sun) on May 6th and will skirt just 5 million miles (0.055 astronomical unit) from Earth on May 29th. That will be the 9th closest approach of any comet on record. But the comet itself won’t get any brighter than 11th magnitude. Debris left behind by the comet may enter our atmosphere and burn up, creating a new meteor shower. Interestingly, the debris we’ll encounter is not fresh debris left by the comet during its 2014 perihelion passage. Instead, we’ll be passing through a stream of cometary debris left behind by Comet 209P/LINEAR in the 1800s
- Bring the Right Stuff
You don’t need to bring binoculars or telescope. The observation is best at a glance. Bring a reclining lawn chair, a blanket and some pillows — whatever you need to get comfortable and still keep your eyes on the sky.
Bringing hot chocolate and/or coffee is strongly encouraged. Don’t try to stand. Standing and looking up may seem like a decent enough idea, but eventually your neck will get tired, and the second you take your eyes off the sky is invariably when the brightest meteors of the night will go blazing by — it’s like a code that all meteors live by. If you absolutely HAVE to look away, make sure it’s for something awesome like taking a sip of hot chocolate.