If you're up tonight after midnight, look up — depending on the cloud cover and other weather related factors, you might just see a spectacular meteor shower, the Camelopardalids.
Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope, joined Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson to talk about tonight's meteor shower.
"For the first time, we're gonna get peppered, and it could be quite a show."
"This one's new because the comet that spawned these, comet Linear, has never been close to Earth," Beatty explained. "But a couple of years ago, it made a distant pass toward Jupiter, Jupiter twisted its orbit a little bit, and now it's coming much closer than it has been in the past. So, too, will the particles along its orbit. So for the first time, we're gonna get peppered, and it could be quite a show."
Beatty said that predictions suggest the shower will last only a couple of hours — and fortunately for stargazers, it'll be during the nighttime hours over North America. Peak viewing times will be 3 a.m. Saturday on the East Coast and at midnight on the West Coast. Most of the shower will radiate from the area around Camelopardalids (Latin for giraffe) constellation, near the North Star.
Unfortunately, Beatty said, there's no way of knowing just how grand a display it will be.
"The particles that we're gonna see tonight are not shed by the comet recently, but 100 or 200 years ago, and we don't know how active the comet was back then," he said. "The prognosticators say it could be anywhere from a dud, in which case we'd just see very few, or we could see one or two a minute, or maybe five a minute — depending on, in particular, how dark your sky is. So you want to get someplace where it's nice and dark, away from streetlights and light pollution if you can."
This segment aired on May 23, 2014.