Giant meteor shower arrives in time for Memorial Day weekend

"This is a very rare event... It could be nothing or it could be the best meteor shower of the year," said Bill Cooke.
By Brooks Hays  |  May 22, 2014 at 4:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- Good news for star-gazers and night owls: a giant mess of space debris is making its way towards Earth. That means another meteor shower -- a really big one.

The meteors are expected to begin burning up in Earth's atmosphere on Friday, with the shower picking up steam overnight into Saturday and keeping pace through the weekend.

Some meteor showers, like the Perseids, arrive once a year. But the Camelopardalids -- named for a constellation, also known as 'the giraffe,' near the North Star -- are brand new, the rocky remnants of a recently discovered Comet 209P/LINEAR.

For East Coast residents, the prime time to see a whole bunch of shooting stars will be between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Some forecasts predict as many as 200 meteors per hour. Still others predict 1,000 meteors per hour.

But not everyone's so sure the show will go off without a hitch. Bill Cooke, lead for NASA's Meteroid Environment Office, says it could be a dud.

"We find new meteor showers all the time, but they're like one meteor a night so you wouldn't even notice them," Cooke said. "This is a very rare event... It could be nothing or it could be the best meteor shower of the year."

Cooke says these meteors are slow-moving, which means they won't burn as bright when they hit. In order to be visible, the chunks of debris will have to be quite large. To find out if they will be, Cooke says, we'll have to wait and see.

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