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New meteor shower could light up night sky May 23 – 24
May 22, 2014
Doug Duncan
When it comes to meteor showers, most people have probably heard
of the Perseid, that lights up Earth’s atmosphere every August. But come late
Friday night and early Saturday morning Colorado residents may get to
witness the birth of a new meteor shower when the Earth passes through the
orbit of a comet named LINEAR.
This is a very rare event and it has astronomers like Doug Duncan,
director of CU- Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium, excited to see how many meteors
will streak across the night sky.
CUT 1 “In my whole life I have never seen a new meteor shower. We have the
old, dependable meteor shows. Every August 11 and 12, for instance, we get
the Perseid Meteor Shower. And now, all of a sudden, there’s the chance of a
brand new meteor shower and nobody knows how big it might be. (:21) So
whether there’s thousands of them, hundreds of them, dozens of them,
millions of them nobody really knows which is why it’s exciting to go out and
see what we are going to be hit by.” (:30)
The comet was discovered in 2004, but this will be the first time Earth
will encounter its debris field of tiny bits of ice and rock -- some no larger
than the size of a pea, says Duncan.
CUT 2 “What you normally see as a meteor shower, or ‘shooting star’ as
people call it, is surprisingly small. If you have a bit of rock the size of a pea it
is going so fast that it will streak across the sky and make a beautiful meteor.
Duncan says the best time to view the meteor shower is from midnight
into early morning because that’s when the Earth’s Western Hemisphere
rotates toward the sun.
CUT 3 (343) “As the Earth continues to spin into the early morning hours you
are on the forward-facing side of the Earth in our orbit and so you are going
to smash into a lot more meteors after midnight than before. (:12) Calculating
the orbit of this comet the best predictions are that about 1:30 early Saturday
morning is when we’ll be right in the midst of the orbit of this comet.” (:25)
At that time he says look to the northern sky just to the right of the
big dipper. And he says if you really want to see a lot of meteors flashing
across the night sky then get out of town.
CUT 4 “Now a very important piece of advice is the darker the sky the more
meteors you are going to see. And so at the very same time there might be a
person in Denver will see one meteor, a person in the suburbs will see five
but a person who has driven up to where the sky is truly dark might see 50 in
one hour. So it is very much worth your while to get away from the city lights
if you possibly can.” (:25)
Duncan says there is no way for astronomers to know just how many
meteors will streak through the atmosphere since the debris that make up a
comet field are too small to see with a telescope. But then, he says, not
knowing is part of why this meteor shower is so exciting.