A first-of-its-kind meteor shower is expected to occur Friday night and into early Saturday morning.
The Camelopardalid meteor shower is a first because Earth has never run into the debris from this particular comet.
The Comet 209P/LINEAR is a very dim comet that orbits the sun every five years and was discovered in 2004.
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Unlike other meteor showers expected to be visible around the same time of year, the Camelopardalid is unique because its debris is strongly influenced by Jupiter's gravity, which constantly alters the orbit of this comet's debris, said William Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
Although NASA is confident when the meteor shower will occur, it's unclear what the shower will look like, Cooke said.
It could be practically nothing, or it could be a couple hundred meteors per hour, Cooke said.
The debris that Earth will encounter this week is the dust that the comet ejected back in the 1800s, according to NASA.
Our forecast models aren't helping us because we can simulate things in a computer, but until you see it, you don't know how many particles a comet gives off, Cooke said.
People in North America will get the best view, and peak activity will be from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. MT Saturday.
The meteor shower tonight will be best viewed in the southern portion of the area than the mountains. In the Magic Valley we expect mostly clear skies and the best opportunities to see the flashes of light in the sky. In the Treasure Valley skies will be partly cloudy and could obscure observations but skies will be clearing start at midnight the beginning of the best viewing time. The mountains to the north will have more clouds but clearing will also start just after midnight, says KTVB meteorologist Larry Gebert.
5 things to know about tonight's meteor shower
1. What is the Camelopardalid meteor shower? It would be dust from a periodic comet called the 209/LINEAR. The Earth has never run into the debris from this particular comet before.
2. Why is it unique? Unlike other meteor showers expected to be visible around the same time of year, the Camelopardalid is uncommon because its debris is strongly influenced by Jupiter's gravity. No one has seen it before, but the May shower could rival the Perseid meteor shower in August.
3. When is the optimal time to view it? People in North America will get the best look, and peak activity will be from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. ET Saturday.
4. What will it look like? Perhaps what is most exciting is that it is unclear what the shower will resemble. It could be practically nothing, or it could be a couple hundred meteors per hour, said William Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
5. Camelopardalid is an odd moniker. How are they named? Meteor showers' names are for the constellation from which the meteors seem to radiate. That point is known as the radiant, and the radiant for Camelopardalid will be the constellation Camelopardalis (the giraffe).