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If you have some time Friday night before this (U.S.) holiday weekend, go out to a dark site, away from city lights. The dust trail from periodic comet 209P/Linear may give us a nice show of meteors flashing across the sky.

Unlike well-known annual meteor showers such as the Leonid or Perseid showers, this meteor shower doesn’t happen regularly because this time the earth will be passing through “puffs” of dust emitted by comet 209P/Linear in previous orbits over a century ago and recently steered toward Earth’s orbit by Jupiter’s gravity. The coincidence of Earth’s position and the position of these streams of dust in their own orbit make for a potentially good show. Predictions range from 100-400 meteors per hour, which makes for a good to intense shower.

If you’re serious about making an effort to see this meteor shower, get away from city lights and don’t look at any bright lights for at least 15 minutes to allow your eyes can become sensitive to the smaller, dimmer meteors. The meteors will appear to originate in the north (the radiant point), but should be visible all over the sky. The peak time is predicted to be at 07:00-08:00 UTC — starting around midnight on Friday evening (May 23-24) for the Pacific coast of the U.S. On this evening, the waning crescent moon rises around 2:20 AM, so those of us on the West Coast of the U.S. should have a dark sky for the peak of the show.

Comet 209P/Linear meteor shower radiant location

Click on image for larger view.

Settle into a reclining lawn chair with a blanket and hot drink and enjoy the show. As with terrestrial weather predictions, the shower could be a weak drizzle or turn into a storm. There are no guarantees except one — if you don’t try to look, you’ll be guaranteed to see nothing!

P.S. In the tradition of naming meteor showers after the constellation containing the radiant, the name of this one would be the Camelopardalids — a mouthful which I hope does NOT stick!


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