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A brand new meteor shower tonight? How to see it online

NASA
The will-it-won't-it meteor shower should peak tonight. Watch it live here!
200 meteors per hour or nothing at all. The truth about the May Camelopardalids will be revealed tonight.

A brand new, never-before-seen meteor shower may peak tonight, and you can watch it live, right here.

The new meteor shower has been dubbed the May Camelopardalids (Camel-Oh-par-dalids) because its meteors should appear to emanate from the little-known constellation Camelopardalis near the North Star. (Camelopardalis looks like a giraffe).

The astronomy website Slooh.com has partnered with NASA to bring you a live feed of the meteor showers from cameras in Huntsville, Ala. The show begins at 8 p.m. PDT.

There is one major caveat about this new meteor shower however: No one can actually promise you it will actually happen.

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a stream of debris, usually left in the wake of a comet. The bits of comet dust burn up in our atmosphere, causing streaks of light to shoot across the sky.

Computer models suggest that sometime between 11 p.m. Friday night and 1 a.m. Saturday morning the Earth will pass through a trail of dust shed by the comet 209P/LINEAR hundreds of years ago. But since the Earth has never passed through this debris stream before, nobody knows exactly how much debris is actually there.

Today, Comet 209P/LINEAR is a fairly inactive comet, not leaving much of anything in its wake. If the same were true hundreds of years ago, then we won't get much of a show tonight.

"If it looked 200 years ago like what it looks like today, I wouldn't even go out in my backyard," said Tony Phillips, an astrophysicist and the author of the website Spaceweather.com. "But comets do evolve over time and break apart, so I'm cautiously optimistic."

Even if we get a great show this weekend, it probably won't be repeated again year after year like some other meteor showers. Comet 209P/LINEAR's 5.1-year orbit around the sun takes it out by Jupiter, where the gas giant's gravity alters the comet and its debris stream's orbit each time it swings by. By next year, Jupiter's gravity will probably have pushed the debris stream out of the way of the Earth.

So, tonight is your first and possibly last chance to see this brand new meteor shower--if you can see it at all.

Happy sky watching!

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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