Keep an eye on the sky for possible major meteors


An exciting new meteor shower — the May Camelopardalids — might come on the scene tonight.

This possible shower stems from Comet 209P/LINEAR, discovered in 2004.

If predictions remain true, Earth might be sandblasted with debris from this comet, resulting in a fine display of meteors, or shooting stars, overnight.

Mid-northern North American latitudes are favored.

The peak night of the shower is predicted for today. Computer models indicate Hawaii can anticipate early evening meteors between 8-10 p.m. Moonrise of a waning crescent moon will take place at 2:13 a.m., leaving the skies fairly dark to witness the meteors, explained Gary Fujihara of the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.

The meteors are predicted to radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis, an obscure northern constellation whose name comes from early Rome, where it was thought a creature half camel and half leopard existed. Today, we know this creature as a giraffe. Since meteors in annual showers take their names from the constellation from which they appear to radiate, it is known as the May Camelopardalids.

The Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research project (LINEAR) discovered this small and dim comet Feb. 3, 2004. The International Astronomical Union gave it the permanent number 209P on Dec. 12, 2008.

P209/LINEAR is a periodic comet, its orbit around they sun is relatively short, and it brings it near the sun for its perihelion passage in just more than five years.

The comet’s last perihelion passage occurred May 6. Although the comet itself is not that exciting, calculations of the orbit of Comet P209P/LINEAR indicate the last debris trail will pass very close to Earth.

This debris left behind by the comet could enter the atmosphere and burn up, creating a new meteor shower, explained Fujihara.

 

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