New Meteors | Camelopardalids | May 24th

UPDATE: May 25, 2014: It seems the shower was but a sprinkle of possibly 5-10 meteors per hour. As with some other events of this type, the media and social media hype far exceeds anything the true event could produce. But, it was a nice night for being out under the stars.


Astronomers are predicting a new meteor shower the morning of May 24th for North America. Comet 209P/LINEAR was discovered February 3, 2004 by Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR). It has an orbital period of 5.1 years. At the farthest point from the Sun, it is nearly as far away as the orbit of Jupiter. At the nearest point, it is as far as the orbit of Earth from the Sun. Meteor counts of 100-400 per hour have been predicted by some astronomers. Some say there is a chance for up to 1000. No one knows for certain. This will be the first time Earth passes through the debris in the path of this comet.

I recorded this desktop simulation of the orbit of the comet intersecting the orbit of Earth to give a sense of perspective. The plane of the orbit of the comet is inclined about 22˚ to the plane of Earth’s orbit. We are expected to pass through the debris left on some of the previous passes of the comet in our neighborhood of space. No one knows exactly how much debris we will encounter. If we are lucky, it might be a large amount that could produce some beautiful meteor streaks from north to south.

Here are two frames from the video for you to get a better look. The first is an oblique view. The second is from directly above.

Oblique View

Viewed Above – Note the orbits of Earth and Jupiter

If you are fortunate to have clear skies where you live, look to the north for Polaris as depicted in this graphic from The meteors are to radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis, the Giraffe, near Polaris. Note the location of the Ursa Major (Big Dipper) to the left and Cassiopeia to the right. This view is for the early morning hours of Saturday May 24th.

NASA released this excellent video summarizing the event and the best times to view it. I invite you to watch the 3 minute video. Let’s all hope for clear skies that morning. Set your clock. Chances are good you will see some meteors. It is is possible you will see something spectacular. Don’t risk missing it.

Here is one more special treat…the Moon occulted Saturn May 14 as seen from New South Wales in Australia. Thank for the video on Vimeo by Colin Legg.

Capture from 20 km north of Albury, NSW. I missed egress in February, so nice to get it this time around. Egress sequence centred around 10 pm Australian EST. The moon was higher for egress than ingress so seeing was better.

Equipment: Celestron C8, f/10, prime focus. Canon 5D2, running Magic Lantern RAW video firmware in 3x crop mode @ 1920 x 1076 resolution. 1/60 sec exposure, ISO 100, 16 fps.

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12 thoughts on “New Meteors | Camelopardalids | May 24th

  1. Actually Camelopardalis is a giraffe. When the ancient Greeks first encountered that animal, they created a name for it from kamelos, which was a camel, and pardalis, which was a leopard. The idea was that a giraffe has a neck that’s long, like a camel’s, and a body with patterns like those of a leopard. Notice how another form of the Greek word, pardos, is the second element in our word leopard, where the leo- means lion.


  2. This is the sort of post that makes me wish I lived in the country. Unfortunately, the conjunction of light pollution to the north and that middle of the night business just isn’t a good one. I’m more than willing to get up, but I’m not willing to go by myself to the dark places where there would be good viewing.

    So – it’s the moon and Venus for me!


  3. I first heard about tonight’s meteor show here–and have since seen lots of news story about it. I’m looking forward to seeing it in a few hours.


    • It happens often that the hype in the media and public forums far exceeds what happens. I knew it was unlikely to be a big deal event. But, if I had stayed in bed and some beautiful meteors streaked by, I would be disappointed in that, too. I have since caught up on my lost sleep.

      News reports showed it might have produced 5-10 per hour. That is hardly a sprinkle, let alone a shower. 🙂


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