BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Scientists have long tracked meteor showers and know exactly when they'll appear. But there's something new Friday night.
As Mike Schuh reports, Earth will pass through the tail of a newly discovered comet, and the light show should be amazing.
A comet is a hunk of ice, frozen gasses, dust and rock. As they speed through space, solar energy from our sun knocks off some of this stuff.
"Every time it goes around, it leaves behind a huge dust cloud telling us where it's been, kind of like breadcrumbs telling us where it's been," said Carl Hergenrother, University of Arizona.
No marketing professional named this comet. It goes by 209p linear.
Hergenrother studies such things. He's at Goddard near Washington, D.C., working on a project to land a spacecraft on a comet. He's flying to Arizona Friday night to see it.
"We're going to see a peak, where the Earth is going to pass through about 200 years' worth of dust trails this comet has laid down," he said.
That will produce shooting stars. Most blaze across the skies. But as we travel through the cloud, particles from this one will burn slower, meaning they'll be visible longer.
"Well, the nice thing about meteor showers is they are visible to your naked eye. You don't need expensive telescopes," Hergenrother said.
So, is it worth staying up or getting up to see? Meteor showers are notoriously unpredictable. There could be hundreds of meteors per hour or just a trickle. Good luck.
The show begins at 2 a.m. and should last for about two hours. The lights will come in from the north and fly southward.
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