≡ Menu

‘Weak’ New Meteor Shower Due To Fragile Comet Dust

A Camelopardalid seen frame-by-frame in a recording taken May 24, 2014 at 1:58:08 a.m. UT (9:58:08 p.m. ET). Credit:  Original recording by Peter C. Slansky; compilation by Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens.

A Camelopardalid seen frame-by-frame in a recording taken May 24, 2014 at 1:58:08 a.m. UT (9:58:08 p.m. ET). Credit:
Original recording by Peter C. Slansky; compilation by Jim Albers and Peter Jenniskens.

While the Camelopardalid shower only produced a few meteors, the lack of flashy disintegrations showed astronomers something new, a new study reveals: the dust from its parent comet (Comet 209P/Linear) was much more fragile than the usual. The reasons are still being investigated, but one theory is that after a century in space, there wasn’t much left to run into.

“Some mechanism was at work that efficiently fragmented the larger meteoroids,” stated Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer with the SETI Institute who, along with colleague Esko Lyytinen, first predicted the existence of the shower a decade ago.

“Our best meteor was no more luminous than the star Vega,” added Jenniskens, “but it gave us a clue as to why there were few bright ones: It was so fragile that the meteoroid suddenly dispersed into a cloud of dust at the end of its trajectory.”

This ‘weak” shower stands in contrast to two meteor showers that took place out of interactions with comet 21P/Giacobinni-Zinner. This produced meteor “storms” in 1933 and 1946 during the Draconids. That comet was more active and the dust grains that left it likely had a lot of ice in them. Comet 209P/Linear did not have that type of ejection, nor was it very active.

You can read more Universe Today observations of the new shower in this past story.

Source: SETI Institute

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Plenum July 24, 2014, 4:35 AM

    …brilliant photograph!

hide