A brand new meteor shower could light up the Memorial Day night sky on Monday and Tuesday (May 30-31) or it could be a major bust. But anyway, you can watch it live online.
Called the tau Herculids meteor shower, this event has the potential to be a so-called “meteor storm” of 1,000 shooting stars per hour overnight Monday as Earth passes through debris from Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. . But it can also hiss. completely out, scientists just don’t know yet. One NASA scientist called it an “all or nothing event.”
You can watch live images of the possible meteor shower overnight Monday and early Tuesday in the above livestream from the Virtual Telescope Project led by astrophysicist Gianluca Masi in Italy’s Ceccano. The free webcast will start at 12 noon. EDT (0400 GMT) on May 31 and will feature images from all-sky cameras in Arizona and Brazil, Masi told Space.com. You can also watch it directly from the Virtual Telescope Project website (opens in new tab) at start time.
Related: The greatest meteor storms of all time
More: Potential meteor shower is an ‘all or nothing event,’ says NASA
The potential for the meteor shower comes from the disintegrating nature of comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. First discovered in 1930, the comet orbits the sun every 5.4 years, each within a radius of 9.2 million kilometers of the sun. time.
But it’s far from certain that the dusty, gaseous debris from Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 will cause an impressive meteor shower, a meteor storm, or whatever.
Bill Cooke, a NASA astronomer who tracks meteor showers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, has said it all depends on the speed of the comet’s material.
“If the debris from SW 3 traveled more than 220 miles” [354 kilometers] per hour when it separates from the comet, we can see a nice meteor shower,” Cooke said in a recent statement (opens in new tab)† “If the debris were ejected more slowly, nothing would reach Earth and there would be no meteors from this comet.”
It was Cooke who said the tau Herculid meteor shower would be “all or nothing” in the same statement.
Related: Meteor Shower Guide 2022: Dates and viewing advice
Outbursts of the comet between 1995 and 2000 increased its brightness, and in April 2006 the Hubble Space Telescope detected a major fragmentation event when the comet split apart. As of March 2017, there were as many as 68 different fragments of the comet left.
To see meteors from the tau Herculid meteor shower, observers should try to move away from city lights, as “shooting stars” are likely to be faint due to their slow speed, according to NASA.
“If it reaches us this year, the debris from SW 3 will hit Earth’s atmosphere very slowly, traveling just 10 miles away. [16 km] per second – meaning much fainter meteors than those of the eta Aquariids,” NASA wrote in a guidebook (opens in new tab)“But North American stargazers are paying particular attention this year, as the tau Herculid radiant will be high in the night sky at its predicted peak time.”
Editor’s Note: If you take a great photo of the tau Herculids meteor shower and want to share it with the readers of Space.com, please send your photos, comments, and your name and location to email@example.com†
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