Humans have been spectators to meteor showers for thousands of years; the first written documentation of the Perseid shower, which occurs when Earth passes through debris sloughed off of Comet Swift-Tuttle, dates to 36 A. D. On the night of May 23 and the morning of May 24, however, stargazers will be treated to a new meteor shower, one that has never before graced the skies of Earth.
According to News-Press.com, the new meteor shower is known as the Camelopardalids. This shower will occur when Earth sails through the field of tiny pieces of rock and ice given off by Comet 209P/LINEAR as its surface was heated by the Sun. Comet 209P/LINEAR is a very faint comet that completes one orbit around the Sun every five years. It was only discovered in 2004 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research initiative, which is carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, NASA, and the United States Air Force.
Astronomers think the first Camelopardalids have the potential to put on quite a show; this time round, Earth’s orbit will intersect the comet’s debris fields from 1803 through 1924. The shower could produce hundreds of meteors every hour as fragments of debris plummet into Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.
Barring cloudy weather, the Camelopardalids could be rather spectacular on May 23 and 24. On the night of May 23, the Moon’s light will not obscure shooting stars. Even once the Moon rises at 3:41 a.m. Eastern Time, it will be a waning crescent that will not interfere with the shower. The shower’s peak could be between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.
The Camelopardalids will appear to radiate from the direction of the constellation Camelopardalis, the giraffe. Rather than rising and moving east to west across the sky like most other constellations, Camelopardalis is a circumpolar constellation, appearing to move around Polaris and remaining visible all night. It is in the vicinity of the Big Dipper and Little Dipper.