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Best times to watch tonight’s meteor shower!

Camelopardalid meteor shower May 23-24, 2014.  Chart via skyandtelescope.com.

Tonight for May 23, 2014

Chart above is from skyandtelescope.com. Visit them here.

There is an exciting new meteor shower on the scene, and the predicted peak is Friday night, the night of May 23-24, 2014! North America is well placed to see this shower, which stems from the faint comet 209P/LINEAR and will radiate in our sky from the far-northern constellation Camelopardalis. How many meteors will you see? Maybe none! Maybe hundreds. Even experts will be watching this shower, hoping for a good display. Models suggest that the best viewing hours are between 6 and 8 UTC on May 24. Because of the time predicted for the meteor display, observers in southern Canada and the continental U.S. are especially well positioned to see the meteors in the early morning hours of May 24 (or late at night on May 23). Will the predictions hold true? They are not always 100% reliable, which is why, no matter where you are on Earth, this shower is worth a try around the night of May 23-24. Follow the links below to learn more.

Best times to watch the shower for select North American times zones

What if you’re outside North America? When should you watch?

Where should you look in the sky to see the meteors?

No matter where you are, watch for Venus and the moon before dawn

209P/LINEAR May 21, 2014 by Bareket Obs

Here is Comet 209P/LINEAR on May 21, 2014 as captured by Bareket Observatory in Israel. This comet is the parent object of the Camelopardalid meteors.

Best times to watch the shower for select North American times zones.

WGST Western Greenland Summer Time UTC – 2 hours
Between and around 4 and 6 a.m. on May 24

ADT Atlantic Daylight Time UTC – 3 hours
Between and around 3 and 5 a.m. on May 24

EDT Eastern Daylight Time UTC – 4 hours
Between and around 2 and 4 a.m. on May 24

CDT Central Daylight Time UTC – 5 hours
Between and around 1 and 3 a.m. on May 24

MDT Mountain Daylight Time HAR UTC – 6 hours
Between and around midnight and 2 a.m. on May 24

PDT Pacific Daylight Time HAP UTC – 7 hours
Between and around 11 p.m. on May 23 and 1 a.m. on May 24

AKDT Alaska Daylight Time UTC – 8 hours
Between and around 10 p.m. and midnight on May 23

HADT Hawaii-Aleutian Daylight Time UTC – 9 hours
Between and around 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on May 23

This hemisphere of Earth will be facing into the stream of debris left behind by Comet LINEAR on the night of May 24, 2014. Skywatchers in southern Canada and the continental U.S. will be especially well positioned to see the meteors.  Image via meteor scientist Mikhail Maslov of Russia.  Visit Maslov's website on the new meteor shower here.

Notice the dark hemisphere of Earth in this illustration. According to astronomers’ computer models, it’ll be facing into the stream of debris left behind by Comet LINEAR on the night of May 23-24, 2014. Skywatchers in southern Canada and the continental U.S. will be especially well positioned to see the meteors, according to these predictions. Image via meteor scientist Mikhail Maslov of Russia. Visit Maslov’s website on the new meteor shower here.

What if you’re outside North America? When should you watch? Models suggest that the best viewing hours are between 6 and 8 UTC on May 24. Translate to your time zone here. Because of the time predicted for the meteor display, North America is favored. But the predicted peak could be off by a few hours. Plus, you might see a few meteors belonging to this shower prior to the peak in the hours, and you might see some meteors after the peak. The nights of May 23 and May 24 are a good times to watch for meteors, no matter where you are.

However, if the predicted time is correct, then the further east you are from North America, the later in the day on May 24 the shower will peak for you.

If you are in the UK or Europe, the predicted peak is around dawn, or after sunrise, on May 24. That means you probably won’t see the strongest part of the shower, but you never know. Watch in the hours before dawn on May 24, and see what you see.

If you’re in Asia, you’re about as far from the predicted “best” location as you can get … but watch anyway. For you, the evening of May 24 is likely best.

The constellation Camelopardalis is far to the north on the sky's dome, close to the north celestial pole.  It's the radiant point of the possible meteor shower from Comet 209P/LINEAR.  Chart via Wikimedia Commons.

The constellation Camelopardalis is far to the north on the sky’s dome, close to the north celestial pole. It’s the radiant point of the possible meteor shower from Comet 209P/LINEAR. Chart via Wikimedia Commons.

Where should you look in the sky to see the meteors? The meteors will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis (camel-leopard), a very obscure northern constellation. Its name is derived from early Rome, where it was thought of as a composite creature, described as having characteristics of both a camel and a leopard. Nowadays we call such a creature a giraffe! Since meteors in annual showers take their names from the constellation from which they appear to radiate – and since this meteor shower might become an annual event – people are already calling it the Camelopardalids.

This constellation – radiant point of the May 2014 meteor shower – is in the northern sky, close to the north celestial pole, making this meteor shower better for the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere. However, you don’t necessarily have to face north to see the meteors. Most meteors don’t become visible until they are some distance from their radiant point. As a result, if the shower happens, the meteors will be seen in all parts of the sky.

No matter where you are, watch for Venus and the moon before dawn

The waning crescent moon and the dazzling planet Venus adorn the eastern sky during the predawn/dawn hours on May 24, 25 and 26.The above chart is for May 24.

The waning crescent moon and the dazzling planet Venus adorn the eastern sky during the predawn and dawn hours on May 24, 25 and 26. The above chart is for May 24. If you’re outside watching meteors, enjoy these bright worlds!