RONIC COMET LINEAR: On May 24th, the heavens could put on a display of irony. Forecasters say Earth will cross a stream of debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR, and the encounter could trigger a bright new meteor shower. The ironic thing is, the comet is so faint:
Aaron Kingery of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office took the picture on May 18th using a 0.5 meter telescope at the Marshall Space Flight Center. “209P is not a very photogenic comet,” says Kingery. “This is the best I could do with a 60-second exposure.”
How could such a dim comet produce a bright meteor shower? In 2014, 209P is producing very little dust. However, the debris Earth is about to encounter didn’t come from 2014. It was shed by the comet mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries. In those days, forecasters hope, the comet was more active.