Big Bear Braces for New Meteor Storm

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On the eve of the StarLight Festival, hosted by the AstronomyOutreach network in Big Bear California, Earth is set to smash into the debris fields from Comet 209P/LINEAR for the very first time, lighting up the night sky May 23rd/24th.

StarLight Festival Big Bear California

The StarLight Festival, A Free Event for the Entire Family!

While all of North America will have a front row seat to see what is predicted to be an amazing display of meteors, Big Bear with its dark, transparent skies will be ground zero for those living in Southern California...

Perhaps you have seen a “falling star” streak across the night sky, and if so, it’s something memorable. So how about witnessing 100-400 meteor falls an hour or maybe even much more if predictions by experts are correct? And perhaps you have heard of the famous Perseid Meteor Shower, or the Leonid Meteor Shower? Allow Mother Nature to introduce the Camelopardalid Meteor Shower.

The experts are particularly excited about this new meteor shower that will come from the debris fields of Comet 209P/LINEAR. It’s called LINEAR after the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research one-meter telescope that makes automated surveys of the night sky that found in what was first thought to be an asteroid on February 3rd, 2004. Astronomer Robert H. McNaught observed a cometary tail coming from the object in March of that year and determined it to be a comet.

Comet 209P/LINEAR’S tight orbit hurls the comet just inside of Earth’s orbit every 5.04 years. According to Japanese astronomer Syuichi Nakano, who is an expert at calculating orbits of comets, 209P/LINEAR reached perihelion on May 6th, and passed very close to earth. Earth is predicted to collide with all of the debris fields that have been left in orbit from 1803 to 1924.

Now Earth is nearing its collision point with the comet’s primordial dust. Easy to find, and up all night, the meteor shower will radiate from the constellation Camelopardalis, and very near the North Star, “Polaris”. Meteors should be visible as soon as it gets dark, activity really picks up at about 11:00 p.m. on the night of May 23rd, peaks just after midnight, and begins to wane about 2:00 a.m.

While all of North America will have a front row seat to see what is predicted to be an amazing display of meteors, Big Bear with its dark, transparent skies will be ground zero for those living in Southern California, and happens on the eve of the first annual StarLight Festival that will occur on the 24th and 25th where people can see many types of meteorite specimens up close at one of the exhibits at this free event in the Village of the City of Big Bear Lake.

Scientists are extremely interested in collecting the 4 billion year old tiny comet dust particles from the meteor shower. In these celestial motes of dust are the original compounds left over from the formation of our solar system. Russian scientists are planning an expedition in the Antarctic, where many meteorites are found in the clean ice. The scientists hope to find the organic blocks of life, nucleotides or amino acids to help answer how life started on Earth.

Big Bear is celebrating the celestial fireworks on the night of the 23rd in support of the StarLight Festival. You can join the Meteor Shower Wine Party at Wolf Creek Resort, call Heather Blackard at (909) 549-9578 for tickets. Set sail on the Meteor Shower Cruise on Big Bear Lake on Miss Liberty, call (909) 866-8129 for reservations and tickets. The Big Bear Discovery Center is celebrating with their Meteor Watching and Campfire, call (909) 382-2790 for details. Or purchase a day pass and head out to the RTMC Astronomy Expo at Camp Oakes and hang out with astronomers at their 46th annual star party.

While there is several meteor showers discovered each year, most are very faint. But the Camelopardalid Meteor Shower will be for most of us, a once in a lifetime opportunity because of the predicted bright fireballs streaking across the sky.

Sponsored by Pepsi, the StarLight Festival is presented in partnership with the 46th Annual Riverside Telescope Makers Conference (RTMC), which will be happening concurrently nearby, and the Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO-NJIT), which will provide exclusive tours during the two-day event.

Established in 2000, the AstronomyOutreach Network is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting public outreach in astronomy and space science.

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Scott Roberts
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