Comet 209P/LINEAR Meteor Storm


Picture courtesy – mattastro

On 24 May 2014, the Earth will pass through a dense stream of dust originating from Comet 209P/LINEAR. Its thought this could result in an intense meteor shower, possibly even a meteor storm

How the meteor shower is predicted?

In recent years, orbital dynamic research has become accurate enough to predict quite precisely when meteor activity may occur. With the help of computer models, dust ejections from comets can be tracked near each perihelion passage. Research has shown that dust tends to concentrate close to the nucleus of a comet. Strands of this dust often converge in space close to the orbit’s perihelion

People that carry out this research are telling skywatchers to take note of the 24 May 2014 when we might experience one of the most dramatic displays of shooting stars in over a decade. The culprit to all of this excitement is a little known comet by the name of 209P/LINEAR which was discovered in 2004.

The comet has a short orbital period of just over five years, bringing it just within Earth’s orbit at each perihelion. The comet’s next perihelion passage will be on the 6 May 2014 bringing the comet within 0.969 Astronomical Units of the Sun with Earth close by. Just 18 days later, Earth will pass through the same point at which this comet was at perihelion resulting in this predicted meteor storm

Who will see it?

Well if you live in North America, you are well placed as the predicted peak is expected to occur between 7:00 and 8:00 Universal Time on 24 May. At this time, both North and South America are in darkness (along with most of the pacific ocean!). It doesn’t bode so well for Europe and Asia who will be in sunlight during this period, however with all things astronomy, this storm may show an unpredictable outburst or extended length of activity. The illustration to the right shows the Earth at 8:00 UTC on 24 May 2014.