Sky watchers mark your calendars for the predawn hours of May 24. That’s when the earth will be passing through the debris strewn along the path of a newly discovered comet causing a meteor shower. But since so little is know about this comet, astronomers are saying that we could be in for a brilliant and fantastic ‘outburst’ of meteors. Another possibility is that it could turn out to be a dud.
The characteristics of most comets that cause meteor showers on earth are well known, but how this comet’s behavior is a mystery. In fact, this comet was only first discovered back in 2004 and is named Comet LINEAR. The tiny bits of debris the earth will be passing through came off the comet way back in the 1800s. Little is known just how dense the debris field will be when the earth is passing through it. Earth’s atmosphere could get sandblasted by the comet’s debris when it enters the atmosphere and burns up. Some experts say we might get a strong shower but not a ‘storm’ of meteors and that these meteors present no danger to life or property on earth.
The prime time for viewing will be between 2:00am and 4:00am. An outburst could last only a few minutes with several peaks of activity within this time frame. The radiant, or point in the sky from which the meteors will be coming from, is in the northern sky near the north star. Do not use binoculars. All we’ll need is a clear sky and know that the moon will not interfere.