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Meteor shower approaches in time for holiday weekend

By John Newsome, CNN
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Stargazers in the UK can enjoy the silhouette of the Llanthony Priory against the starry sky. The ruins have partly been <a href='http://www.llanthonyprioryhotel.co.uk/' target='_blank'>converted into a pub</a>. After a night of hard sky observation, you can step into the former Augustinian priory for an authentic Welsh ale. Stargazers in the UK can enjoy the silhouette of the Llanthony Priory against the starry sky. The ruins have partly been converted into a pub. After a night of hard sky observation, you can step into the former Augustinian priory for an authentic Welsh ale.
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Brecon Beacons National Park (UK)
Natural Bridges National Monument (U.S.)
Westhavelland Dark Sky Reserve (Germany)
Mont-Mégantic Dark Sky Reserve (Canada)
Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve (New Zealand)
Exmoor National Park (UK)
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NamibRand Nature Reserve (Namibia)
Kerry Dark Sky Reserve (Ireland)
Northumberland Dark Sky Park (UK)
Goldendale Observatory State Park (Washington)
Death Valley National Park (California)
Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)
Hortobágy National Park (Hungary)
Galloway Forest Park (UK)
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
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Observatory Park, Geauga Park District (Ohio)
Clayton Lake Dark Sky Park (Ohio)
Blue Ridge Observatory (North Carolina)
Zselic Starry Sky Park (Hungary)
Headlands Dark Sky Park (Michigan)
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Camelopardalids will be visible Friday night into Saturday morning
  • It's the first new meteor shower in a generation, meteorologist says
  • Clouds could impede viewing in the Plains and Pacific Northwest

Planning to catch the meteor shower this weekend? Share your best shots with CNN iReport, and you could be featured on CNN.

(CNN) -- The cosmos has aligned, quite literally, for families, space geeks and insomniacs alike, as the Earth is set to intercept a new meteor shower late Friday into Saturday.

The scientists who discovered the cosmic debris say the Camelopardalid shower could be "significant."

Perseid meteor shower lights up the sky
Time-lapse of the Perseid meteor shower

Some forecasts show 200 to 1,000 meteors an hour between 2 and 4 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday.

Renata Arpasova spent the early morning hours Sunday photographing the Orionid meteor shower from Wiltshire, England. Renata Arpasova spent the early morning hours Sunday photographing the Orionid meteor shower from Wiltshire, England.
Capturing the Orionids
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Capturing the Orionid meteor shower Capturing the Orionid meteor shower

NASA says North America is in the best position to get a glimpse because the peak of the shower will appear during our nighttime, and the debris will "radiate" from a position favorable for viewing.

"We expect these meteors to radiate from a point in Camelopardalis, also known as 'the giraffe,' a faint constellation near the North Star," according to Bill Cooke, who heads NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

More than just the potential for a spectacular light show, stargazers could witness a rare cosmic event.

Awe-inspiring photos: 'Blood moon' mesmerizes sky gazers

"New meteor showers don't come along that often. It'll be the first time in a generation that a new meteor shower will show up," according to CNN Meteorologist Sean Morris.

Where to see them

The best place to watch the shower will be east of the Mississippi River or in California. Precipitation over the Plains and Pacific Northwest could make viewing there difficult.

If you're having trouble seeing it, or if you want to join other amateur astronomers across the country as it happens, NASA's website will host a live chat from 11 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. EDT Saturday, as well as offering a live view of the skies over Huntsville, Alabama.

Instead of staring at a screen, though, Cooke encourages everyone to look up.

"There could be a new meteor shower, and I want to see it with my own eyes," he said.

The Camelopardalids

The name of the shower, Camelopardalids, refers to the constellation and the angle in our sky from where the meteors will appear.

The shower is made up of debris from Comet 209P/LINEAR, according to NASA. It crosses the Earth's orbit once every five years as it circles the sun.

In 2012, NASA announced that Earth would encounter debris from this comet crossing our orbit this weekend.

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