May 23rd-24th-25th 2014 Meteor Shower

This May 2014 Memorial Day weekend may add an exclamation point to the normal activities, in which we should all be sure to acknowledge the sacrifices of our troops both domestic and abroad in our continuing effort to preserve Democracy.

Last year us Earthlings had the opportunity of viewing 3 prominent comets. One was hopefully spectacular, but it’s close encounter with the Sun disappointed everyone. Comet ISON was billed the “comet of the century”, although it failed all hopeful expectations.  Comet Linear, however, was somewhat of a surprise.  Although just approaching naked eye visibility, it was a nice view in binoculars and small telescopes.

comet lineard
comet linear

Now for the good news.  The Earth will be passing through the cometary tail of Comet Linear on the night of May 24th and 25th.  The comet, 209P/LINEAR, a tiny periodic comet, was discovered in 2004, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research project (“LINEAR”).  Although it is not a scheduled annual periodic meteor shower, the debris from the passing of this comet may give us an unexpected NEW annual meteor shower.  Comet Linear had a very defined coma and distinctive tail.  More likely than not, meteor showers are generally associated debris from comets.  As the Earth passes through this tail, fine particles burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere from friction.  These are called meteors, or “shooting stars”.  If one survives this passage and actually hits ground, it is termed a “meteorite”.

As for the debris from Comet Linear becoming an annual event , time will tell.  This year will be one of many tests.  Meteor showers are notoriously unpredictable, even the well established annual showers, such as the Leonids  or Geminids.  Thus far a meteor shower from this comet is unnamed.  Most probably the Linearids.


But here is when and where to look.  On Saturday morning the 24th, look after midnight until dawn.  The meteors are predicted to radiate from the direction of the dim constellation of Camelopardalis, the Giraffe, for a few hours centered on May 24th, at around 3:00 a.m. EDT (or 12 midnight PDT).

The meteors will appear to be shooting up from out of the northern part of the sky. The moon will be a waning crescent, just four days from its dark “new” phase, and will be of no obstacle from glare in the morning sky of the 24th or evening sky on the 23rd for those observers.


(Vaubailion’s computer simulation, courtesy Farmers Almanac, May 2014)

If things sort out, we may witness a meteor storm.  That’s 100’s to a 1,ooo meteors per hour.  Or you may see just a couple.  Since it’s a holiday weekend, take the time to look up after dark on the 24th and 25th……If we’re lucky, you can make a wish on a “falling or shooting star”…….

Meteor Shower Storm
Meteor Shower Storm

(courtesy StarscapeScientific ) and Serif Images




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