Meteors are a delight to see in the night sky, appearing without warning and gracing the sky with their shimmer and speed, playful fireworks that quietly captivate those who take the time to watch. Annually there are many meteor showers that we can predict and prepare for, primarily because they are caused by debris in the path of Earth's orbit and are reliably there each time Earth passes through the debris. In most cases "debris" means the small particles of dust no larger than a grain of sand, left in the wake of a comet or asteroid.
Radiant in Camelopardalis
Friday night May 23 through Saturday morning May 24, Earth will travel through such a stream for the first time from a source that we have not encountered before. In this case it's Comet 209P/LINEAR, a fairly unimpressive comet from a visual point of view, but one that has left a debris stream in its wake and could be have initiated a new meteor shower. The peak for this will be Friday night / Saturday morning around 1:00 am pacific time, so find a dark spot with a clear sky, give your eyes time to adapt, and enjoy. You don't need a telescope or binoculars. The 'radiant' point of the shower is in the faint constellation Camelopardalis (see image) but you don't need to face that way - just have a clear sky and a good view overhead, a lawn chair or pad to relax on.
In 2005 I began writing a column for the San Francisco Waldorf School newsletter called "The Urban Astronomer." I started this blog in 2007 as a place to archive my articles and to offer additional insights on the night sky - even if you live in a big city. In 2008 I became an occasional guest on the KFOG Morning Show, and more recently on KALW and KGO. Archived shows are posted on the blog.