The little known constellation Camelopardalis has hit the news as the radiant of a possible new meteor shower. This meteor shower is due to Comet 209P/LINEAR, a relatively small (likely only about 1 km across) Jupiter-family comet. This comet was discovered in 2004, has an orbital period of 5.03 years, heads only out as far as Jupiter before heading back towards the Sun. It crosses the Earth’s orbit and was initially classified as an Near Earth Asteroid, before a tail was spotted.
It is possible that the Earth will move into the stream of debris left in the comet’s orbit – this could cause a meteor shower on May 24. The peak time is predicted to be close to 7 am UT (which will be daylight for us! we’re at UT + 1 in the summer months). Most estimates of the peak are close to 200 meteors per hour – but the stream might be patchy because of the influence of Jupiter.
To observe this meteor shower, head outside, dress warmly and lay back, facing roughly north. If you want to report what you see, then the International Meteor Organisation has superb, detailed instructions for reporting. Check it out here.
If you would like to try to detect meteors with your radio – then read how to here!
A great summary of the comet and the possible meteor shower is here. It’s worth repeating the words of Peter Jenniskens and Esko Lyytinen :
“In late May, comet 209P/Linear will make the 9th closest approach to Earth of comets on record. In the night of Friday May 23, when Earth is at the node of the comet orbit, some of the debris ejected by the comet during returns to the Sun in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries is calculated to be in Earth’s path. If the comet was active in those years, and that is a big if, a new meteor shower may be visible from the United States and southern parts of Canada. Slow moving meteors would radiate from the vicinity of the north star.
Keep your expectations low, but don’t miss it! “