The list of major meteor showers has not changed much in recent decades. Meteor showers are a part of nature, and like all things in nature, a meteor shower can become more exciting or less frequent from year to year.
But in 2014, an interesting new meteor shower could appear. This meteor shower comes from a comet – comet 209P/LINEAR – discovered in 2004. Comet 209P/LINEAR approached the Sun in 2009 and will return in early May 2014. On the night of May 23 to 24, 2014 – if The prediction is correct – the Earth will receive many remnants left by this comet and, as a result, many bright meteors will appear. The central northern hemisphere latitudes will be the focus of attention.
An automated observation campaign, the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project, discovered the small, faint comet on February 3, 2004. The International University Astronomy Society (IAU) named it 209P on February 12. December 2008.
P209/LINEAR is a periodic comet, which means its orbit around the sun is relatively short, so we can see it come close to it several times. The orbit of comet 209P/LINEAR brings it closer to the Sun every 5 years or more. The next perigee is May 6, 2014.
The comet itself is actually nothing special. But what’s interesting is that calculations of P209/LINEAR’s orbit indicate that by May 2014, this band of cometary remnants will be very close to Earth. The remnants left by comets can enter the atmosphere and burn up, forming new meteor showers.
Less optimistic recent calculations come from Quanzhi Ye and Paul A. Wiegert of the University of Western Ontario. Their research was published online in November 2013. In a report on skyandtelescope.com, John Bochanski wrote that Ye and Wiegert’s research shows that this meteor shower will have a frequency of 200 meteors per hour. Under ideal conditions:
“But Ye and Wiegert warn: Since comets currently produce very small amounts of dust, the frequency could be much lower. Given this small amount of dust, as well as the team’s lower estimate of the amount of remnants from the comet’s previous approach in this region of space, it seems unlikely that we have a meteor storm (1,000 stars (band/hour).”
Will Comet 209P/LINEAR produce a meteor storm, or at least a significant meteor shower? Like all meteor showers, the only way to find out is to go out during peak night and see for yourself.
The nighttime peak of the meteor shower is forecast for May 23-24, 2014.
The meteors will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis (Giraffe), a northern constellation that few people are familiar with. The constellation’s name comes from Roman times, where it was considered a composite creature, described as having the characteristics of both a camel (Camel) and a leopard (Leopard). Today we just call him Giraffe!
This constellation – the focus of the meteor shower – is located in the northern sky, near the north celestial pole, making viewing more convenient for residents of the northern hemisphere than those in the southern hemisphere.
As for the expected timing of the meteor shower, southern Canada and the United States are considered the best places to view the meteor shower on the night of May 23-24, 2014.
In short: On the evening of May 23-24, 2014, if the prediction is correct, Earth could receive numerous remnants of comet 209P/LINEAR, resulting in a major meteor shower. Could it be a meteor storm? Recent calculations indicate it’s unlikely, but it could be a meteor shower large enough to be exciting.