A ‘meteor storm’ of 1000 shooting stars per hour may light up the skies over North America this week – Space.com
The Tau Herculids meteor shower may light up the skies over North America on May 30 and 31. Or it may not. There’s a chance we might pass through the thickest part of the comet fragment that is creating the debris, in which case the night skies will be filled with shooting stars.
If a meteor shower happens in the right way, Earth could pass through a thick forest of space rocks, leading to up to 1,000 shooting stars per hour. But the sky show is not guaranteed, NASA cautioned.
Meteors are best seen around 2 a.m. local time. Wear comfortable clothing, arm against mosquitoes, and sit back in a lawn chair and lookup.
If you can’t make it for this show there is another opportunity each year around mid-August with another comet that has been passing by earth each summer.
The originating small solar system body for this August shower is a comet, kind of like an icy snowball, known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or SW3 for short. The comet has been falling apart for a while and close to 70 pieces were observed as early as 2006, although NASA suspects more fragments are lurking in the solar system.
“If it makes it to us this year, the debris from SW3 will strike Earth‘s atmosphere very slowly, traveling at just 10 miles [16 kilometers] per second,” the agency warned. Slower meteors tend to produce fainter trails in the sky, but we might get surprised.
Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com and has covered two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- A ‘meteor storm’ of 1000 shooting stars per hour may light up the skies over North America this week Space.com
- ‘Meteor storm’ may bring 1000 meteors an hour Monday night Cayman Compass
- Fragments of a dying comet might put on a spectacular show next week – or pass by without a trace WOODTV.com
- How to watch the potential tau Herculids meteor storm live online Space.com
- Possible meteor shower to light up the night sky CBS Pittsburgh