New meteor shower could dazzle to start Memorial Day weekend

New meteor shower could dazzle to start Memorial Day weekend

THOUSAND PALMS, Cali. - This memorial day weekend could get started with a grand fireworks display put on by mother nature.

     There is potential for a brand new meteor shower to grace our skies on Friday and if experts are correct, it could rival some of the best showers of the year.

     So, how rare is a new meteor shower? Bruce Gottlieb is President of the Astronomical Society of the Desert, he says, "I have never seen a new meteor shower in my lifetime and I have been interested in astronomy and following it very avidly since 1986."

     It's safe to say Bruce, like many astronomy fans across the country, is excited, especially because of this shower's potential.

"There may be a concentrated half hour where you see a hundred to two hundred. That's what I'm hoping for but that remains to be seen."

     Estimates vary widely on how many meteors we might see, mostly because the earth has never crossed the path of the comet that produced this shower's dust. That comet, called 209P/LINEAR, was recently moved by our solar systems largest planet.

     Gottlieb explains, "Recently the comet's orbit took it past Jupiter, and Jupiter has high gravitational pull and Jupiter moved actually the orbit of the comet. So it moved the comet plus the debris field into the path of the earth."

     Scientists are having a difficult time estimating the number of meteors to expect, but we do know if the meteors fall the peak will happen sometime between 10 pm and 2 am Friday night into Saturday. That's when you need to be outside, looking to the north-northwest.

     Watching a meteor shower isn't like watching an eclipse. The meteors move too quickly so optical equipment like binoculars and telescopes are out of the question.

     "You want as wide of view as you can of the sky because you want to keep roaming the entire sky behind you, in front of you, to the left, to the right, meteors will come from every direction," says Gottlieb.

     Head to a place away from city lights, such as Joshua Tree National Park. Other local dark spots include Dillon road between Desert Hot Springs and Coachella. Or if you feel like finding some cooler air, you can always head up highway 74 into the mountains.

     Bring a lawn chair, a blanket, maybe some food or drinks, and a red or green tinted flashlight. White light will desensitize your eyes, making it more difficult to spot the dimmer meteors.

     Since this shower hasn't happened before, don't give up if you don't see anything immediately. It's possible that all of the meteors could fall in one half hour period, if they fall at all that is.

     And, if the meteor shower happens, astronomers will give an easy name to pronounce and remember, the May Camelopardalids.

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