On May 24, 2014, Earth will plow through a dense stream of dust particles shed by Comet 209P/LINEAR. Dynamicists think the crossing could result in an intense meteor shower — maybe even a "storm" — and North Americans will have front-row seats.
Over the past two decades, celestial dynamicists have gotten very good at divining when meteoric activity will spike. Their computer models can track how dust ejected by a comet near each perihelion pass gets distributed into strands of particles over time. Their calculations show that dust tends to stay concentrated close to the nucleus, and that the strands themselves often converge in space close to the orbit's perihelion.
Now these number-crunchers are telling us make sure May 24, 2014, is circled on our skywatching calendars. On that date, we might experience the most dramatic display of "shooting stars" in more than a decade.
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