We hope tonight* you will stay off tumblr long enough to catch the entirely new Camelopardalids meteor shower, which promises be a good one. Comet dust from 209P/LINEAR, sloughed off 200 years ago in its orbit around the sun is due to enter our atmosphere and provide us a remarkable show. That is provided you find somewhere with clear skies away from sources of light.
Sidereus Nuncius, sometimes called Starry Messenger, is a short work by Galileo Galilei in 1610—or almost 200 years before 209P/LINEAR laid the groundwork for tonight’s show. Above is the verso of Galileo’s drawings of the Pleiades star cluster, which makes an exceptional background for our shooting stars. The edition is available for view online in our Heralds of Science collection, a set of books donated to the Smithsonian Libraries by noted book collector and founder of the Burndy Library, Bern Dibner. Our Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology is named in his honor.
Make Galileo proud.
(*Just fyi: this was originally posted on May 23, 2014—the “tonight” we were referring to. Hoping this slight edit will help with any confusion and unnecessary time away from tumblr. The International Meteor Organization has a calendar of meteor showers, if you’re interested.)