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Meteor Storm Not Over: Watch For Comet Caboose Weds.

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[ Science]

Did you witness the witching hour light show in the sky this morning?

Me neither. It’s always nice to see these kinds of events live; but if you’re like me, you might have missed the Camelopardalid meteor shower on account of cloudy skies. Lucky for the both of us, media capturing the cosmic firework display was posted all over the web today. What’s more – we haven’t necessarily missed the entire dusty trail of Comet-209P/LINEAR. In fact, the tail end of the meteor storm should pass by Earth – starting tonight and visible on Wednesday.

Although the storm wasn’t as intense as some anticipated, scientists chock this up to “unknowns”.

That is to say, our current models aren’t as good at predicting meteor showers induced by Jupiter family comets. Because Comet-209P/Linear is among these, the gravity of the massive planet is among the variables making predictions difficult. Another reason forecasts may have been off is because the best way we can determine meteor shower characteristics is based off previous models. Because this guy wasn’t discovered until 2004 (and doesn’t swing around but once every five years), it didn’t give scientists much with which to work.

“Although this is a far cry from predictions, it is hardly a surprise,” says astronomer Tony Philips of Spaceweather.com. He added, “The parent comet, 209P/LINEAR, is faint and currently produces only a small amount of dust. Most forecasters acknowledged that there might be less dust in Earth’s path than the models suggested.”

If you’re bummed about missing the show, you might still be able to catch the tail end.

Provided it’s clear enough on Wednesday, it should be visible in the north sky with a consumer model 3-inch-reflector telescope. If you’re ill equipped to see it, watch the celestial eye goodies unfold live. Also, if you’d like to plan ahead for more atmospheric awesomeness, mark your comet calendars for Perseid meteor shower – which is in August.

But just in case – you might check the skies tonight. Phillips suggested the spectacle might have fallen short of Earth shattering because perhaps the main event has yet to come. He said, “Another possibility is that the shower is not a dud, just delayed,” and then went on to add, “If models mis-located the debris zone, an outburst could still occur later on May 24th.”

Hey! That’s today!

Anyone else got last minute plans for a stellar Saturday night?


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Meteor Storm Not Over: Watch For Comet Caboose Weds.
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