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Camelopardalid meteor shower could bring fireballs and pepper the moon with impacts, too!

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Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Friday, May 23, 2014, 1:55 PM - Last week, I wrote about a new meteor shower - called the Camelopardalids - that could flash through our skies early Saturday morning, and may even become a meteor storm if the conditions are just right. Now, new information is hinting that, if it does happen, it may be even more spectacular than was originally thought, producing multiple fireballs and even peppering the moon with impacts as well!

This meteor shower is already standing apart from the other ones that we see during the year. First of all, it's very likely that it's completely new. Also, when Earth passes through the stream of debris that produces this meteor shower (laid down by Comet 209P/LINEAR) it's supposed to pass through a particularly dense part of the stream, so the first time we all see this shower, it could be an actual meteor storm, producing hundreds of meteors an hour.

While those two facts together should make this an event that nobody should miss (at least those that can see it, at least), here's a few more that came out recently, that should convince anyone who's still not convinced.

Credit: Bill Cooke/NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office

Credit: Bill Cooke/NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office

It's probably going to hit the moon!

That's right, according to Bill Cooke, who heads up NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, the moon is going to pass through the comet's debris stream too. Since it will be a crescent moon, and most of the face will be shrouded in darkness, we may see several lunar impacts. The moon will be rising at around 3:20 a.m., and anyone looking for impacts should keep watching until sunrise, just to be sure you don't miss any.

It may include spectacular fireballs!

As Cooke told SpaceWeather.com, the debris stream from Comet 209P/LINEAR very likely includes some larger chunks, possibly up to a few centimetres in diameter. 

"We searched through our database of several thousand bright meteors and found a likely candidate," he said. "Back on May 9th of 2012, one of our all-sky cameras caught it burning up at an altitude of 66 kilometers." 

A short video of this fireball can be seen on the SpaceWeather.com website.

"Peaking at a magnitude of -2 (Mars brightness), our now-extinct visitor was about 3.3 cm in diameter - a little smaller than a ping pong ball," Cooke added. "We believe it was a May Camelopardalid because it had an orbit that greatly resembles that of parent Comet 209P/LINEAR."


The chances of seeing this meteor shower are still a bit 'up in the air' (if you'll pardon the pun). Since it's never been seen before, and we have no idea how active Comet 209P/LINEAR was when it laid down the part of its debris stream we'll be passing through (sometime in the 1800s), it could be a dud. However, given the potential, this still isn't one that anyone should just write off. It could end up being a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime event! It should be visible for all of North America, but of course, weather is going to play its role. The map above gives the cloud forecast for tonight and Saturday morning, so you can see if the weather is going to cooperate. 

If it isn't, and you're denied your chances due to clouds, you can try watching via the Slooh Space Camera website. Their live webcast of the event starts at 11 p.m. ET. 

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