You may not have heard of comet 209P/LINEAR. Not very many people have, that is until this week. It's an obscure comet whose trajectory changes as it interacts with Jupiter's massive gravitational field. This weekend, our orbit around the sun will take us right through the comet's tail. That means as we pass through the debris field, we'll be in just the right spot to see a never-before-seen meteor shower.
Rachel Pomeroy, Director of Shiras Planetarium in Marquette, has had her eye on this event and had this to say. "It seems to be giving off dust particles that although fewer in number, are larger in size. So that is going to result in some bright slow meteors and a chance for some of those spectacular fireballs or bolides," she said.
We're calling this meteor shower the Camelopardalids. That??s because the meteor shower will appear to radiate from the constellation, Camelopardalis. Apparently, the ancient Romans thought the cluster of stars resembled a hybrid of a camel and a leopard. These days, that creature is simply known as a giraffe.
We here in the North Country are truly in a prime spot for viewing this shower. However, as Rachel Pomeroy warns us, "Comets are just like cats because they both have tails and they do whatever they want," she said.
Even with all our modern science and technology there is still some doubt about the quality of the event, especially since we've never seen this one before. If you ask me, the uncertainty makes this event even more exciting because even the experts aren??t sure whether the Camelopardalids will be spectacular or a bust.
Some astronomers predict we may see between 200 and 400 meteors per hour during those peak hours between 2-4 a.m. EDT early Saturday, May 24. There??s also some good news from in the weather department.
Matt Zika, Meteorologist, with the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township agreed with our sentiment. "From a weather perspective, viewing the meteor shower for Friday night should be about as optimal as you're going to get. The skies will definitely be clear. Temperatures will be relatively comfortable for this time in the spring," he said.
Zika also added the moon, which can create some light pollution will have very little impact on our viewing. Firstly, it??ll be in its waxing crescent phase which limits reflected sunlight from the lunar surface. Also, it??ll stay below the horizon for most of the night. In fact sunrise shortly after 6 a.m. EDT will do more to hinder our viewing than anything else.
Just in case you can??t make it out for this once in a lifetime event, https://www.slooh.com/ will stream it live!