Camelopardalid Meteor Shower Targets The Moon Too – Watch For Impact Flashes

To monitor the moon for possible impacts from the Camelopardalid meteor shower, focus your attention on the speckled area in the darkened upper half of the moon Saturday morning. Impacts may flare to magnitude +8-9. Credit: Bill Cooke

Our favorite orbital partner the moon will join us for the hoped-for Camelopardalid meteor shower Friday night-Saturday morning May 23-24. While any shards of comet debris will flash to incandescence in Earth’s atmosphere, particles striking the airless moon will appear as faint flashes of light when they smack the lunar rocks and vaporize.

Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office suggests that anyone with a telescope should monitor the moon until dawn. The meteor shower is expected to peak in Earth’s skies around 2 a.m. CDT (3 a.m. Eastern, 1 a.m. Mountain and midnight Pacific). On the moon, activity is possible between 9:30 p.m. CDT Friday night through 6 a.m. Saturday morning (2:30-11 a.m. Greenwich Time) with a peak from 1-3 a.m. CDT (6-8 a.m. Greenwich).

The crescent moon and Venus in the eastern sky Saturday morning May 24 around 4 a.m. local time. Stellarium

East Coast skywatchers are favored as the moon is up in the eastern sky around the time of maximum. But the time spread means that anyone from Western Europe across the U.S. could potentially spot a flash. You’ll need a 4-inch or larger telescope magnifying between 40-100x. Higher powers aren’t necessary as they restrict the field of view.

I can’t say how easy it would be to catch one but it will take patience and attention. That’s why the favored method for capturing views of lunar impacts is a video camera hooked up to a telescope set to automatically track the moon. That way you can kick back and examine your results later in the light of day. Seeing a meteor hit live would truly be the experience of a lifetime.

Video frame grab of an earlier meteorite impact on the moon. Impacts look like stars that flash and then quickly disappear. Credit: NASA

As a crescent, much of the moon will be in shadow – perfect for checking for flashes which would otherwise impossible to spot on the brilliant, sunlit crescent. Earthlight will faintly illuminate the remaining 2/3 of the moon, making for a nice dark backdrop against which to see any meteorite strikes.

If you’re into photography and plan to shoot stills or video of the meteor shower and lunar impacts, Brook Brooke Boen (sydney.b.boen@nasa.gov) at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center would love to hear from you. Please send any images or video to her e-mail. Your observations will help astronomers better understand the birth and evolution of this brand new meteor shower.

6 Responses

  1. Clóvis

    Hey Bob!!!

    What about Southern Brazil?? I’vee only readed about Northen Hemisphere…

    If the shower occour,is it gonna be visible down here??

    Thanks!!!!

    Greetings!

    1. astrobob

      Clovis,
      Unfortunately you are too far south. It’s dark at the right time for you but the meteors radiate from a northern constellation that’s way below your horizon. You might keep an eye on the moon though with a telescope. Everyone across the Americas has a chance to possibly see a meteor from the shower impact the moon.

  2. Clóvis

    Thats a pitty!

    Thanks a lot Bob!!!

    enjoy the show, no telescope here and cold 5°C, windy and cloudy…

    1. astrobob

      Clovis,
      I wish you could join us. I forget that it’s winter where you live. I will update the blog later tonight with a live report of the shower if you’d like to check back.

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