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What's A 'Camelopardalis' And Where Can I See It?

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D. Moser using Starry Night Pro
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NASA

Look up Colorado, and you may witness the birth of a new meteor shower late Friday night. That’s when the Earth passes through the orbit of a comet named Linear.

The shower’s name is a tongue twister: Camelopardalids. It’s named after the giraffe constellation.

According to NASA:

The word originates from Latin: kamēlos (or camel) and pardalis (or leopard). The result is a camel-leopard creature with a long neck and lots of spots -- which we affectionately know as the giraffe. Camelopardalis, a large and dim constellation in the northern sky, is named for its many faint stars that resemble the spots of a giraffe.

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Credit Marshall Space Flight Center / NASA
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NASA
Map showing where the expected May Camelopardalid meteor shower will be visible during the peak time on May 24, 6:00-8:00 UTC.

“In my whole life I have never seen a new meteor shower. We have the old, dependable meteor shows. Every August 11 and 12, for instance, we get the Perseid Meteor Shower. And now, all of a sudden, there’s the chance of a brand new meteor shower and nobody knows how big it might be,” said Doug Duncan, director of CU-Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium.

Since it’s never been seen before, astronomers are excited to see just how many meteors there will be.

“So whether there’s thousands of them, hundreds of them, dozens of them, millions of them nobody really knows which is why it’s exciting to go out and see what we are going to be hit by,” said Duncan.

The comet was discovered in 2004, but this will be the first time Earth will encounter its debris field of tiny bits of ice and rock -- some no larger than the size of a pea, said Duncan.

The best time to view the meteor shower is from midnight Friday into early morning Saturday because that’s when the Earth’s Western Hemisphere rotates toward the sun.

At that time Duncan said to look to the northern sky just to the right of the big dipper.

And of course, get away from city lights.

If weather has you down, fear not. NASA will be streaming the shower online.

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