New meteor shower forecasted to peak tonight - Tucson News Now

New meteor shower forecasted to peak tonight

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A new meteor shower is forecasted to peak tonight. According to computer models the best time to wish upon a shooting star will be from 11 PM to 1 AM over Arizona. However, all this week skywatchers may see increased meteor activity. 

This new meteor shower is called the Camelopardalids. According to EarthSky.org this tongue-twister of a name comes from the location in the sky where the meteors appear to radiate from during the night. 

"The meteors will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis (camelopard), a very obscure northern constellation. Its name is derived from early Rome, where it was thought of as a composite creature, described as having characteristics of both a camel and a leopard. Nowadays we call such a creature a giraffe! Since meteor in annual showers take their names from the constellation from which they appear to radiate – and since this meteor shower might become an annual event – people are already calling it the May Camelopardalids." says EarthSky.org.

Earth will pass through debris from Comet 209P, possibly producing up to an astonishing 200 meteors per hour in the night sky.  However, EarthSky.org cautions the computer models "are not always 100% reliable." Which means the meteor shower could be spectacular or a bust. No matter what, it is worth a little stargazing that night in hopes of seeing the shooting stars.  

The debris from Comet 209P was "ejected by the comet during returns to the Sun in the late 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries" according to meteor.seti.org. Bill Cooke from NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office says the photo below was taken in New Mexico on April 30th, when the comet was about 40 million kilometers from Earth. Later this month the 209p is forecasted to have the 9th closest approach to Earth of comets on record.


Photo source: SpaceWeather.com

The meteor shower may also produce some explosions on the moon. The moon's atmosphere is much thinner than the atmosphere on Earth. Where most meteors burn up upon hitting the Earth's atmosphere, they instead hit and then explode on the moon. 

SpaceWeather.com says "Meteoroids hitting the lunar surface could produce explosions visible through backyard telescopes on Earth."

The below image shows the crescent moon that will rise at 2:37 AM heading into early Saturday morning. It is the top half of the moon, where you see the white dots, that could be hit by the debris overnight. 

The lunar impacts are fairly common. NASA began monitoring these explosions in 2005. Check out video of a lunar impact by clicking here.

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