Irish astronomers are calling for the Irish and North Americans to look skywards as the Earth passes through the tail of a comet. Experts predict 200 shooting stars could rain down per hour, from dusk until dawn.
The sky show, dubbed the May Camelopardalids, which will occur in the morning in Europe and very early in North America, on Saturday, May 24, is set to rival even the annual August’s famed Perseids.
These spectacular celestial fireworks displays will occur as the planet passes through the debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR on Friday, May 23, 2014. David Moore, from Astronomy Ireland, urged people to get outside on Friday night and witness the once-in-a-lifetime star display.
He told the Irish Examiner, “Imagine a thousand shooting stars per hour. It could be one every five to 10 seconds. It could be really spectacular.
“Shooting stars are very rare and most people accidentally see one once every few years. If they go out for five to 10 minutes on that particular night they could see more than an astronomer sees in a lifetime. It is a very big event cosmically.”
The Comet 209P/LINEAR was discovered in February 2004 by NASA. It is described as a relatively dim comet that dips inside the orbit of Earth once every five years.
Moore said that although it helps that the meteor storm can be predicted chances of viewing the natural phenomenon are not foolproof.
He said, “This particular [shower] will be caused by dust off a comet five million miles away. The conditions are just right for us to get a decent shooting star shower this one year.
William Cooke of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, pointed out, “We have no idea what the comet was doing in the 1800s.
“As a result of this uncertainty, this could be a great meteor shower or a complete dud.”
Moore continued, “It will blast one half of the Earth. It is a very big event cosmically. In the past, they weren’t able to predict them, but they have figured out now how to predict them, although it is still not totally reliable science.
“It’s more than likely the star shower will materialize and there is a decent chance it could be a storm. You definitely want to be outside watching. If it does happen you are in for the celestial fireworks display of a lifetime.”
The expert also told the Examiner that North American are in a prime location for viewing the shower at its height.
“It currently favors North America but we are the last country to North America. We could catch the whole event,” said Moore.
“People should get outside on the night of the 23rd and the morning of the 24th from dusk till dawn if you can stay up that long.”
Here’s a NASA video on the meteor shower: