Meteor observation doesn't have to be rocket science: All you have to do is lie back in a comfortable place and look up at the sky with the naked eye. Every so often, a meteor will flit across the stars. You simply make a note on a clipboard or speak into a tape recorder.
On Friday night and early Saturday morning (May 23-24), Earth will plow through debris shed over the years by Comet 209P/LINEAR. The result likely will be a new meteor shower, and possibly a spectacular meteor storm of 1,000 or so shooting stars per hour, experts say.
Even if you can't watch the meteor shower in person, you can catch the celestial showcase live online via a few webcasts. The Slooh community is hosting live views of the shower beginning at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 May 24 GMT), and they will also stream a webcast about Comet 209P/LINEAR before that at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT). Watch the webcasts directly through Slooh.com, or catch the Slooh meteor shower feed on Space.com. The Virtual Telescope Project will also host a meteor shower webcast. (See maps and pictures about the new meteor shower)
No two observers prepare for a meteor vigil the same way. It will help if you can take a late-afternoon nap and a shower, and wear all fresh clothing. The ground can get cold, so heavy blankets, sleeping bags, cushions and even pillows are all essential. Sleeping bags provide some mosquito protection, but don't forget the insect repellent!
A long, reclining lawn chair makes a good observation platform because it's comfortable, portable and, in most cases, relatively inexpensive. It also allows you to move your head toward any section of the sky. A Thermos of hot coffee, tea or juice is a welcome comfort. Avoid alcohol; it impairs night vision.
Find a safe observing site that provides a wide-open view of the sky. Once you arrive, allow 20 minutes for your eyes to become fully adapted to the dark. You can use a flashlight, but only after you make some key modifications: Cover the lens with a sheet of dark-red cellophane, since dim red light affects your eyes far less than lamplight.