Our planet is about to pass through a sprawling burst of 200-year-old space dust that could make for a dazzling, never-before-seen meteor spectacle. East Coasters should go outside between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning for the best chance to see the sparkly show.
The May Camelopardalids could bring more than 200 meteors per hour, double what you'd expect at the peak of the well-known Perseids shower. Stargazers have had the chance to see Perseids every July for centuries, but Camelopardalids is brand new to us. The reason: We're about to encounter the debris field—the stuff that showers into our atmosphere—from the 209P/LINEAR comet for the first time since it was discovered 10 years ago.
On May 24, scientists say, Earth will cruise through the debris from 209P. No longer attached to the comet, the field will actually pass Earth five days before 209P does. When we see the debris, the comet itself will still be millions of miles away.
If we see the debris. We still don't know how much of the meteor shower we'll actually be able to see from Earth. "We find new meteor showers all the time, but they're like one meteor a night so you wouldn't even notice them," said Bill Cooke, lead for NASA's Meteroid Environment Office. "This is a very rare event... It could be nothing or it could be the best meteor shower of the year."