The October Camelopardalid meteor shower peaks on Thursday evening (Oct. 6), offering a chance to catch a few early autumn meteors before the much more brilliant Taurids peak next month.
The radiant of the October Camelopardalids — the point from which they appear to originate — will be just below the actual Camelopardalis, or giraffe, constellation and will appear above the constellations Ursa Minor and Draco.
The radiant will reach its highest point in the sky around 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Friday (Oct. 7), so the best time for most folks to catch a glimpse of the October Camelopardalids will be between 1:00 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT) and dawn. Skywatchers in New York City should have an optimal view for catching the shower, as Earth will be rotated so that the city faces towards its radiant, according to In-The-Sky.org.
The meteor shower itself is not particularly bright, and unfortunately, the moon will be only three days away from the October full moon, meaning the conditions are not ideal for spotting the Camelopardalids. Still, the meteor shower itself is enough of a curiosity to make it worth attempting to see.
Meteor showers are typically produced by streams of comet debris that burn up in Earth's atmosphere. These debris trails typically distribute themselves along the orbit of their parent objects through our solar system.
The October Camelopardalids are somewhat mysterious in that astronomers aren't quite sure what their origin is. The meteors have an orbit, meaning they likely come from a comet with a long period similar to Halley's comet, yet there is no known comet that has been identified as having spawned the Camelopardalids. This means either we haven't discovered it yet, or that the comet has long since disintegrated or crashed into another celestial body similar to Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which spectacularly crashed into Jupiter in 1994.