SETI scientist will observe meteor shower from above the clouds

May 23, 2014

SETI Institute scientist Peter Jenniskens first predicted the May 23 Camelopardalid meteor shower 10 years ago. He is now ready to solve the mystery of the comet's past activity.

This never before seen meteor shower would be caused by debris shed by Comet 209P/Linear as it passed through the inner solar system every 5 years during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Scientists want to know how such comets behave over time as they cause many of our .

The SETI Institute will send Jenniskens and his observing team to the skies above 20,000 feet to observe the event above the clouds and atmospheric dust. Jenniskens will also study the shower with his autonomous meteor shower surveillance stations at Lick Observatory, Fremont Peak Observatory and in Sunnyvale. The flight will originate from Palo Alto, Calif. at 10:30 PM PDT, head towards Seattle, and return to Palo Alto approximately four hours later.

Extraordinary Sight

Friday night's encounter with the debris will shed light on the mystery of whether the comet was active in the past. Depending on that answer, the shower could be a spectacular display, or a no-show informing us that the comet moved through the centuries in tact, shedding little debris for us to observe. Either outcome is scientifically important.

The best viewing time for the possible shower is a narrow time interval between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. EDT, and between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. PDT the night of Friday, May 23. The meteor shower will be streamed and archived through the following sites:

  • SETI Institute Meteor Site: http://meteor.seti.org
  • Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cal-astro
This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
If you look up in the sky on May 23rd, you may be able to see some meteors similar to the ones in the video. Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, filmed these meteors with low light video cameras as part of the Cameras for Allsky Meteor Surveillance project (CAMS) in early June of 2011 and 2012. The cameras have a field of view of 30 degrees wide and 20 degrees high. These meteors belong to a weak shower called the sigma Ursae Majorids (number 677 with code "SIM" in the IAU Meteor Shower Working list), a new shower detected by CAMS. They move in an orbit similar to that of 209P/Linear, but are seen annually in the period June 6-14. They may represent older dust ejecta from the comet. These meteors look much the same as those from the possible 2014 May 23/24 meteor shower of May Camelopardalids, anticipated from the close encounter of 209P/Linear with Earth that month. That shower has not been seen before.


Explore further: Live webcast of Comet LINEAR and new meteor shower, 23-24 May

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The "magic hour" for Geminid meteors

Dec 13, 2013

As arctic air and record cold sweeps across the USA, amateur astronomers are looking at their calendars with a degree of trepidation. A date is circled: Dec. 14th. And below it says: "Wake up at 4 AM for the ...

Comet collision to come?

Aug 11, 2011

New research shows that the Earth was impacted for a few hours by a stream of dust from a potentially dangerous comet on February 4, 2011.

Recommended for you

Video: A dizzying view of the Earth from space

50 minutes ago

We've got vertigo watching this video, but in a good way! This is a sped-up view of Earth from the International Space Station from the Cupola, a wraparound window that is usually used for cargo ship berthings ...

NEOWISE spots a comet that looked like an asteroid

51 minutes ago

Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet ...

What the UK Space Agency can teach Australia

1 hour ago

Australia has had an active civil space program since 1947 but has much to learn if it is to capture a bigger share of growing billion dollar global space industry. ...

Discover the "X-factor" of NASA's Webb telescope

1 hour ago

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray observatory have something in common: a huge test chamber used to simulate the hazards of space and the distant glow of starlight. Viewers can learn about ...

User comments : 0