SKY SPY

Sky Spy: May meteor outburst possible late Friday night or early Saturday morning

2014-05-22T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T11:07:35Z Sky Spy: May meteor outburst possible late Friday night or early Saturday morningBy Tim Hunter Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Three times a year, I write about meteor showers — in August, November, and December for the Perseids, Leonids and Geminids, respectively.

As the Earth moves around the sun, it sometimes encounters a rich lode of debris when it crosses a comet’s path. A meteor shower occurs, during which many meteors appear to radiate from a point in the sky. This “radiant” is in the constellation for which the shower is named.

There are many other known meteor showers throughout the year, but they generally do not have as many meteors or meteors as bright as the Perseids, Leonids or Geminids. Every once in a while, a known meteor shower may go haywire and produce a spectacular display, even a “meteor storm.” Unfortunately, these are rare, and predicted meteor storms often fail to live up to expectations.

The International Meteor Organization studies meteors and meteor showers. It has predicted a possible outburst of meteors on Friday night and Saturday morning from debris given off by comet 209P/Linear. The outburst may last only minutes, with more than one peak of activity possible. The predicted time for peak activity is from midnight to 1 a.m. Saturday. The radiant for the meteor outburst is predicted to be somewhat to the lower left (west) of the North Star, Polaris.

The moon does not rise until 2:37 a.m. Saturday. Get out your lawn chair, point it north, and look for meteors for as much of the night as you can. Meteor showers are far more unpredictable than the weather, but you don’t want to miss this opportunity for a spectacular event.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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