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Witness the Birth of a Meteor Shower 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretty-lights-in-the-sky dept.
StartsWithABang writes: "Here on Earth, we think of shooting stars and meteor showers as things that happen periodically; sometimes they're spectacular, sometimes they're rare. But in all cases, they're caused by comet debris, and they should flare up each time the Earth crosses the comet's path. But as it turns out, every meteor shower had a point in its past where it happened for the very first time. In all of human history, we've never recorded one that occurred for the very first time where none happened before. Well, for those of you who want to take the chance to be a part of it, this coming Friday night/Saturday morning, look for the Camelopardalids, making their Earthly debut this year!"
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Witness the Birth of a Meteor Shower

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...so it'll be "...this coming Friday night/Saturday morning, look up and see... clouds!"

  • Cameltoetards (Score:5, Informative)

    by tquasar (1405457) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @07:28AM (#47055135)
    Another view from some space guy, Dr Phillips: http://science.nasa.gov/scienc... [nasa.gov]
    • by kaladorn (514293) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @01:43PM (#47058585) Homepage Journal
      A friend of mine who works for NASA (or at least in the downstream distribution of NASA satellite data) and is an amateur astronomer and photographer sent me this information: (Thanks Indy!) - Maybe it'll be useful to some....

      So, this coming weekend, specifically Friday night/Saturday morning, there is to be a brand spanky new meteor shower happening. So brand spanky new it hasn't been observed before, because the dust from the associated comet has not intersected with Earth's path until now. And because of all the uncertainty with the debris stream, there are heavy caveats to "this MAY happen" - but if it does...brand new event never before seen!

      Given that it's so new, that nothing is *known* about it, anything could happen. It could fizzle. Or it could become the most spectacular thing to happen since the Leonid meteor storm of 2002 (it is unlikely, however great this meteor shower gets, that it'll get THAT good!).

      So, first, the nuts and bolts for this weekend. The meteor shower is *predicted* to reach it's peak between the hours of 2am and 4am Eastern Daylight Time on the morning of May 24th (adjust your times accordingly with respect to your time zones; example, midnight to 2am Mountain Time). BUT, because there are uncertainties in exactly where the dust ball is that we will be passing by, it could peak upwards of a few hours on either side of that. However, the meteor folk who have been tracking this stuff are reasonably confident on their predict times.

      Further to this, it's not known how distributed the debris cloud is. It could be pretty compact, in which case the peak may last only a few minutes. Or it could be fairly distributed, in which case the peak could last for hours. Or it could be clumpy, in which case there may be more than one peak! Again, new brand spanky new meteor shower, we have no idea yet! :-D

      Second, the meteor shower will appear to be coming out of the *very* obscure constellation of Camelopardalis, which is situated to the right of the Big Dipper, left of Cassiopeia, and below the Little Dipper (see attached image). It's a pretty sparse area of sky. The constellation is so obscure that in the decades of my looking at the sky, I've never tried tracing it out. Maybe this weekend I finally will. :-D

      So, given the above radiant, your best option to face during the shower is to the north (and if you're not sure where that is - and not everyone does, especially if they are directionally challenged - remember where the sun went down, then stand so that direction is off to your left :-) ). But don't *focus* on staring to the north! Look around. Face east a bit. West. Look overhead! Meteors can fall all around. It's just that you will likely see more (albeit shorter, quicker) meteors coming out of the north than you will to the west, east, or overhead (which will be longer, and slower, but relatively fewer). But don't restrict yourself to only northward-looking.

      Darkness. If at all possible, you want to find the darkest location you can to see this. That means, getting out of and AWAY from the cities. Light pollution will utterly swamp the sky, and you won't see ANYthing. :-( The further away from lights you can get, the better. And get to a location where you have open skies, a view to the north, and can see as much of the sky as possible (being in the middle of the woods - dark or not - won't do you a bit of good in viewing the sky much)

      Dressing for the Weather. Assuming it'll be clear where you are, check the forecasted temperature lows, and dress as if it will be 10-15 degrees cooler/colder than that. Hats are good. :-) Meteor watching - heck, night sky watching in general - is not among the more heat-inducing activities. ;-) Also, lawn chairs or blankets, and sleeping bags, are nice to have. Be comfortable!

      What you MIGHT expect to see? Really, nobody *knows* for certain, but I've seen some healthy numbers tossed out t
  • "But in all cases, they're caused by comet debris"

    There was a shooting star 65 million years ago that wasn't caused by comet debris, and others since then that were not quite as spectacular.

  • In all of human history, we've never recorded one that occurred for the very first time where none happened before.

    How do we know it never happened before? It may be sporadic and simply escaped recording (which was quite hit or miss before modern times).

    There are many showers that were reported for the first time in recent history with no record of prior observation (e.g. the Quadrantids, never noted before 1825). In fact we are currently in a period of frequent shower discovery (several new ones a year) since sky-imaging networks are now picking up many showers that are sparse, and thus eluded visual detection.

    The summ

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How do we know it never happened before?

      Because we read the article?

      "Well, there’s a very short period comet—Comet 209P/LINEAR—that completes an orbit every 5.09 years. Because of the way the comet (first discovered in 2004) and its orbit were oriented, it (and the dusty debris surrounding it) didn’t come close to Earth. But this year will different; in 2012, it passed close by to Jupiter, which changed its orbit slightly. For the first time in history, this comet will pass within just 5 million miles (8 million km) of Ear

      • by careysub (976506)

        Thanks - I read TFA. Did you actually read my post? It does NOT prove this was the first time in human history this ever happened! Got the point now, AC?

    • How do we know it never happened before? It may be sporadic and simply escaped recording (which was quite hit or miss before modern times).

      There are many showers that were reported for the first time in recent history with no record of prior observation (e.g. the Quadrantids, never noted before 1825).

      With showers such as the one you cited, we were able to extrapolate back and recognize that they had in fact crossed our path in the past, though any records of their having done so didn't survive to the present. The same is not true here, hence why it's such a big deal. A lack of records doesn't mean it's impossible to tell if a comet has crossed our path before, since we're fully capable of extrapolating orbital paths both forward and backward.

      • Because Earth's orbit didn't intersect with the comet's orbit until recently when Jupiter's gravity altered it. RTFA
        • I'm guessing you replied to the wrong person? Because that doesn't contradict anything I said. Rather, I quite agree with it, including the "RTFA" sentiment aimed at the OP.

  • Guaranteed Friday night / Saturday morning cloud cover.
    • by tquasar (1405457)
      Coastal California, "Night and morning low clouds and fog..." have vexed my seeing for years. I'll drive 45 miles to the local mountains for clear skies.
  • Anyone who has ever looked at the night sky might goto H-A and create an account.The site has much info. I saw the Shuttle chasing the ISS in orbit over my home, many satts like TRMM and China's Tiangong !, spy satts like the Lacrosse series passing by. Most of what can be seen is space junk, rocket bodies and such, some have been in orbit for twenty years. The X37B, seen that too. I was at work and saw Shuttle Columbia on it's fateful re-entry.... RIP brave souls. http://www.heavens-above.com/m... [heavens-above.com] http: [space.com]

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