Keep your eyes peeled this month because you might be able to spot two comets skimming the night sky, and if we’re really lucky we might even witness a dazzling meteor storm. In order to give you the best chance of catching a glimpse of these events, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has kindly released a video detailing where to look, which is shown below:
The two comets, PanSTARRS C/2012 K1 and 209P/LINEAR, should be bright enough to witness through a small telescope or even a pair of binoculars, so make sure you don’t miss out on this opportunity.
As the name suggests, PanSTARRS C/2012 K1, or PanSTARRS for short, was discovered back in 2012 using the PanSTARRS telescope. According to narrator Jane Houston Jones, you should be able to spot this comet with relative ease as it soars across the night sky below the Big Dipper, also known as Ursa Major or the Plough. If you’re unsure as to which constellation this is, it’s the one that looks like a big saucepan. The best time to see this comet is in the dark, moonless nights from May 17th through early June, adds Houston Jones.
On 29th May, 209P/LINEAR will come within around 5 million miles of Earth, but you should get some more impressive views before this. According to the video it should be passing Ursa Major and Leo until around the 27th May. But what has really titillated astronomers and skywatchers is the fact that on the 23rd and 24th May, Earth may pass through the debris that this comet has left trailing behind, which could result in a spectacular meteor shower. Astronomers aren’t certain about what we might see, but according to Houston Jones it could be anything between 100 meteors per hour to a meteor storm as high as 1,000 per hour, although the latter is less likely.
So lock your eyes on the sky this month, and you might see something truly unforgettable.