Giant Storm of Fireballs About to Rain Down on Massachusetts (We Hope)

The May Cemelopardalid meteor shower could produce up to 400 fireballs an hour.

Nobody can pronounce Cameloparid meteor shower but all of North America can watch it. (Photo courtesy of NASA.)
Nobody can pronounce Cameloparid meteor shower but all of North America can watch it. (Photo courtesy of NASA.)
By Todd Richissin

There’s a new big deal for stargazers hoping to catch something so new in the astronomy world that it may make its first ever appearance this weekend – if we’re lucky.

Astronomers are united in their assessment of whether the new May Cameloparid meteor shower will be the best celestial show in years: maybe, they say, maybe not. Whichever it turns out to be, we won't know until this weekend when it comes around. 

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.

In a videocast, The head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, Dr. Bill Cooke, said he often lets cameras do his sky watching for him. 

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.

MoonBeamWatcher May 24, 2014 at 09:16 AM
Sent to MA by G-d as his way of thinking us for inprisonment of Justina Palliter for over a year! WHAT A PLACE TO CELEBRATE ONE's SIXTEENTH BIRTHDAY! Justina and her family will remember all of you forever! You people have no SHAME! Great and General Court MA department of children and Families! YES you too Governor DEVIL for not sending Justina home from the prison she's been confined in . . . I Pray that the Palitears are able to get several pounds of flesh from the Democratic leaders of MA! Unfortunately ALL MA taxpayers will have to pay!


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