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New meteor shower could light up sky early Saturday morning

Mark your calendars for a new meteor shower — possibly a meteor "storm" — this week.

While most showers are annual occurrences and easy to forecast, this one is a first. Earth is expected to pass through a debris trail left behind a comet that was discovered in 2004 and named Comet 209P/LINEAR.

The shower could mean 100 "shooting stars" per hour, or more. Some scientists have suggested rates of up to 400 meteors per hour.

How many end up being visible is uncertain because astronomers aren't sure how much and what kind of debris is trailing the comet. While the comet reached perihelion, or its closest point to the sun in its orbit, on May 6, the debris Earth will pass through is from a much older pass through the solar system — dating to the 1800s, according to EarthSky.org.

Look skyward late Friday night and early Saturday morning. North America will be well-positioned to see any meteors that streak across the sky.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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