Sky May Unleash Shooting Star Storm

Weather Talk
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 12:18pm

Newly Discovered Meteor Shower to Possibly Occur this Saturday morning

I am always amazed when it comes to events that happen overhead. Usually it has to do with cool cloud formations, thunderstorms, falling winter snow or our amazingly beautiful desert sunsets. Today I thought I would tell you about a rare and major meteor shower expected to occur Friday night into early Saturday morning. In today’s “Weather Talk” I will tell you what I have learned about a newly discovered, never been seen before meteor shower.

The Camelopardalids meteor shower is somewhat of a question mark because it has never been seen before. The Camelopardalids could put on a display that rivals the well-known Perseids of August.
“Some forecasters have predicted a meteor storm of more than 200 meteors per hour,” Dr. Bill Cooke,The head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office said.

The Camelopardalids will peak early Saturday morning, between midnight and 2 A.M.. MDT, according to NASA.

The Earth will pass through dust and debris that that was originally ejected in the 1800s from comet 209P/LINEAR .
The comet 209P/LINEAR was first discovered in 2004.

According to; “Two years ago, meteor experts Esko Lyytinen of Finland and Peter Jenniskens at NASA Ames Research Center announced that Earth was due for an encounter with debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR. Streams of dust ejected by the comet mainly back in the 1800s would cross Earth's orbit on May 24, 2014. The result, they said, could be a significant meteor outburst.
Other experts agreed, in part. There is a broad consensus among forecasters that Earth will indeed pass through the debris streams on May 24th. However, no one is sure how much debris is waiting. It all depends on how active the comet was more a century ago when the debris streams were laid down.
"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."

This comet is faint and originally comes from the Jupiter family that orbits the sun every five years.

Where can I watch it?

Chiris Grohusko, a local astronomer and resident expert at the Exploreum Museum says the best viewing spots near El Paso are; “If you live West, take I-10 to the Mesquite exit to find a quick observation spot free of city lights. If East, drive to Hueco Tanks State Park, 32 miles northeast of the airport“ Look towards the northern sky.
Grohusko goes on to say” The Big Dipper is high in the sky in the northwest so it will be helpful sky landmark for looking roughly North. A sky app like Google sky or Apple Star Walk helps very well! This shower Is known as the Camelopardalids, after the Latin name for the constellation that radiates the shooting stars, Camelopardalis, the Giraffe, which constellation takes quite a bit of experience to recognize but isn't important to know, just look North."

Grohusko and others are hoping for the best but most scientists aren't sure what to expect or how many meteors will be visible.

How about the weather for viewing?

Some cloud cover and area thunderstorms in west Texas and New Mexico may not allow you to see much.
The Pacific Northwest is the only other spot expected to be cloudy but the rest of the country should have not have a problem viewing the meteor shower.

The cloud cover may be breaking up enough over the Borderland by Friday night as some drier air at the surface and mid levels starts mixing in. Here in the Borderland we have the dry line, the Gulf of Mexico moisture swinging in from the east and an upper level low headed our way from the northwest. The combination of the two will bring in cloud cover and should fire off area thunderstorms Wednesday through most of the day Friday. There is a chance right now of the clouds clearing enough by midnight Friday to allow Borderland sky watcher’s to catch a glimpse.

So I am wishing good luck to all of us hanging out late Friday night into Saturday morning hoping to see this celestial event. Hopefully the clouds will clear and  the Camelopardalids meteor shower will put on a good show and we will not have to stretch our necks  to much like a “Giraffe” to see them.

Chuck DeBroder, Chief Meteorologist
KTSM, NewsChannel 9, NBC, El Paso, TX

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