NEW METEOR STORM THIS MONTH…..MAYBE?!
Image Credit & Copyright: David Kingham; http://www.davidkinghamphotography.com/ of the 2012 Perseid meteor shower in the Snowy Range, Wyoming. CLICK image for larger view and look below for information and related links.
This month, on the morning of May 24, 2014 the Earth will likely be passing through a cometary debris field left over from the 5-year comet 209P/LINEAR, creating the “2014 Camelopardalids.” This pretty non-spectacular comet was discovered by the LINEAR telescope and it makes its perihelion every 5 years. 2004 (discovery year) was the first documented passage then again in 2009 and this year on May 6, 2014.
Get out there and take a peek if you like but it’s a pretty dim apparent magnitude of around 13 in the constellation Ursa Major. It is worth noting that on May 29, 2014 as this comet reaches perigee it will become the third closest comet to Earth since 1900 and the 14th closest on record. Even then, this non-dazzler will only reach an apparent magnitude of about 11-ish and will be moving fast; likely around 25” arcseconds a minute. Discovered on February 3, 2004 by the LIncoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) using the 1 meter reflector it was recorded as an asteroid and designated 2004 CB until on February 30 of that year when comet hunter extraordinaire, Robert McNaught discovered that it had a tail (I told you that it’s a non-dazzler).
None the less on the morning of May 24 we will be passing through its debris field. As with any fresh pass the possibility of a meteor storm with hourly rates in excess of 1000 is possible which is just incredible. This is however pretty unlikely BUT it could still be by far the best show of the entire year or even decade with realistic estimates somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-300 per hour. Or there could be nothing…..just the way it goes.
The radiant point will be in the circumpolar constellation Camelopardalis so it will primarily be a northern hemisphere, North American show as peak is scheduled for sometime around 0600-0800 UTC (0200-0400 EDT), thus, will be daylight in the UK and the rest of Europe. Peak times are up in the air as well as there may be one major one or multiple, more sporadic peaks. The major thing to consider with a new, non-regular storm is that nobody can truly predict what’s going to happen or how much debris there will be waiting for us. I’m taking the night off work just in case and if I were in Europe or even the southern hemisphere you can bet a years pay that I’d be outside that night looking for a free show!
With anything in astronomy, as I discovered once again with this year’s total lunar eclipse; even if everything’s positioned for you perfectly the weather has the final say. Check your forecast early and often, dress for the conditions and as always with sky watching; go out enthusiastically with the understanding that you may see nothing.
Track Comet 209P/LINEAR in real time: http://theskylive.com/209p-tracker
NASA page for the 2014 Camelopardalids: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/06may_newshower/
Main Website: http://www.davidkinghamphotography.com/
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+DavidKingham/posts/H2rsJ4orMFF