Brand new meteor shower making debut tonight, tomorrow morning


by The Associated Press and

Video by ScienceAtNASA

Posted on May 23, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Updated Friday, May 23 at 12:58 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- There's a new meteor shower in town and it might even turn into a full-fledged storm.

Early Saturday, the planet will pass by debris from Comet 209P/Linear. The dusty debris is what creates the meteor shower.

Scientists believe the shower could produce three, four or more - possibly a few hundred more - shooting stars per minute.

North American sky-gazers will have the best views. The shower should peak around 11 p.m. Friday (Arizona time) through dawn Saturday.

If you plan to watch, look toward the North Star, which near the bottom of the Little Dipper's handle. Any shooting stars should appear to radiate from there.

You do not need any special equipment to see a meteor shower, but make sure your watching spot is as dark as possible. The moon will not be a problem because it is waning, but light pollution (i.e. street lights) can obscure your view, particularly if the "shooting stars" are not overly bright.

Comet 209P/Linear was discovered in 2004. It will be about 7.6 million miles from Earth on Saturday. Next Tuesday, the comet will pass within 5 million miles.

The debris that will create this meteor shower, however, is from previous passes.

"Given the current orbit of the comet, all the [debris] trails ejected between 1803 and 1924 do fall in the Earth's path in May 2014!" Jeremie Vaubaillon, of the Institut de Mécanique Céleste et de Calcul des Éphémérides in France, told in 2012. "As a consequence, this shower might as well be a storm."

Because this is new meteor shower, experts do not know what to expect. It could be spectacular. Or it could be a dud. Many astronomers, however, are betting on the former. Some say there could be thousands of meteors per hour, rivaling the Perseids we saw in August.

The shower's name is a mouthful: Camelopardalids. It's named after the giraffe constellation.