Astronomers are united in their assessment of whether the spakin' new May Cameloparid meteor shower, due this weekend, will be the best celestial show in years: maybe, they say, maybe not.
But quite possibly.
The May Camelopardalid meteor shower peak could very well turn into a storm over North America, but not to worry: the comet responsible for the meteors will come nowhere close to earth, and the meteors themselves burn high, high, high in our atmosphere.
That comet is called "209P/LINEAR," which is much more cool than its nerdish name. (And infinitely more pronounceable than its meteor shower.)
While the comet was discovered only in 2004, nobody has ever seen the Camelopardalids, the fireballs that should be visible as Earth passes through the trail of dust left behind by ol' 209P in the 1800s.
But not this time.
"There could be a new meteor shower, and I want to see it with my own eyes," says Cooke.
Some forecasters have predicted up to 400 meteors per hour, but the fact is that's a guess based on less data than experts would like.
"We have no idea what the comet was doing in the 1800s," says Cooke. As a result of the uncertainty, "there could be a great meteor shower—or a complete dud."Most experts say, though, that at least a decent show can be expected, with a pretty good chance that the Camelopardalids will rival what is usually the best meteor show of the year, the Perseids, which in 2014 peak Aug. 10-Aug. 13.
When to Watch: The peak night of the shower is predicted for May 23-24, 2014, meaning after the sun goes down on Friday and before it rises on Saturday. Models suggest that the best viewing hours are between 2 and 4 a.m. EDT. As with most meteor showers, though, you can often get a pretty good show a night or two before and after the peak.