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:

Related Stories

Comet collision to come?

August 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.

The "magic hour" for Geminid meteors

December 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 Geminid meteor ...

Recommended for you

Image: Hubble sees a dying star's final moments

July 31, 2015

A dying star's final moments are captured in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The death throes of this star may only last mere moments on a cosmological timescale, but this star's demise is still quite ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

Earth flyby of 'space peanut' captured in new video

July 31, 2015

NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.

Binary star system precisely timed with pulsar's gamma-rays

July 31, 2015

Pulsars are rapidly rotating compact remnants born in the explosions of massive stars. They can be observed through their lighthouse-like beams of radio waves and gamma-rays. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.