May could go out with a bang thanks to a celestial show that has the potential to light up the night sky.
The Tau Herculids will be visible during the late-night hours of Monday, May 30 into the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 31st.
The big question is just how visible and big the shower is going to be..
The Tau Herculids is not one of the reliable shows that appears every year during the same general time and experts believe the Tau Herculids shower has the potential to become a “meteor storm,” capable of producing an outburst as many as 1,000 meteors per hour.
“This is going to be an all or nothing event,” said Bill Cooke said, who heads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
Meteors produced by this shower are from comet SW3, discovered in 1930 by two German astronomers, Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann. It has a wide orbit and makes its way around the sun every 5.4 years.
“Being so faint, SW3 wasn’t seen again until the late 1970s, seeming pretty normal until 1995, when astronomers realized the comet had become about 600 times brighter and went from a faint smudge to being visible with the naked eye during its passage,” Cooke said. “Upon further investigation, astronomers realized SW3 had shattered into several pieces, littering its own orbital trail with debris. By the time it passed our way again in 2006, it was in nearly 70 pieces, and has continued to fragment further since then.”
Just how visible the shower will be depend on the speed of the comet.
“If the debris from SW3 was traveling more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, we might see a nice meteor shower,” he said. “If the debris had slower ejection speeds, then nothing will make it to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.”
How to see the meteor shower
Best viewing will be late night of May 30 into early morning hours of May 31st.
For your best chance to see, NASA recommends getting away from light pollution and in a dark area. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to have your eyes adjust to the dark.
You won’t need a telescope or binoculars and should instead let your eyes take in the entire sky. Relaxed eyes will quickly zone in on any movement up above, and you’ll be able to spot more meteors. Avoid looking at your cell phone or any other light since both destroy night vision.
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