What happened to the great meteor shower?

A Camelopardalid meteor over Joshua Tree, California. Courtesy Gavin Heffernan

So the possible spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime event meteor shower — the very first Camelopardalids — came and went.

It wasn’t spectacular. But it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

This was the first time that we would (at least knowingly) pass through the debris left over from Comet 209/P LINEAR.

Because this comet was only discovered 10 years ago, scientists were unsure about how much debris it shed during its trip around the sun. Not only that, but they also had to try to figure out when Earth would pass through the debris.

Camelopardalid over Espanola, Ont. Courtesy Bill Longo

There was speculation as to whether or not Earth would be bombarded with small pieces of dust and debris. Initially, some astronomers calculated that we could see a meteor storm, about 1,000 meteors an hour at its peak. As time went on, however, other estimates were more conservative, closer to 200 to 400 meteors an hour (some even said about to 20 to 40 an hour).

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What did we get?

Well, I ventured out to a dark sky site northwest of Toronto. During the observation — from 12:45 to 5 a.m. — I saw about 10.

There were nowhere near 200 to 400. Even 20 to 40 an hour is questionable.

While some may believe that’s a disappointment, there were many sporadic meteors (those not associated with the shower), so many satellites I lost count, and I was able to see the stars as I hadn’t in a very long time.

Was this shower overhyped? Was it a waste of time to go out under the stars?


There was lots to see during the Camelopardalids. Courtesy Bill Longo

If you went out under the stars in the wee hours on May 24, even though you may have not seen a shower of meteors, the night sky likely didn’t disappoint: satellites, other meteors, and even some faint northern lights put on a show. It just served to remind you that there is a lot going on out there. And it got people out and looking up.

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WATCH: Camelopardalis meteor smoke trail (Courtesy Gavin Heffernan)

The good news is, the next big meteor shower is the Perseids in August. Those are better understood and produce about 100 meteors an hour.

But you don’t need to wait until then to get out under the stars. Take advantage whenever you can. The universe is always a busy place.

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