There may be a meteor shower emerging from Hercules tonight (May 30-31), so keep your eyes peeled for the region.
Astronomers are keeping an eye on the fragments of the shattered comet 73P / Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (also known as SW 3) to see if this generates a stream of small space rocks that harmlessly explode into Earth’s atmosphere.
If you can’t see the event in person, you can watch the potential meteor storm tau Herculids online with a live stream from the Virtual Telescope Project.
Previously, NASA astronomer Bill Cooke called the potential meteor shower milestone an “all or nothing event” in an agency blog post.
“If the debris from SW 3 was traveling more than 220 miles [354 kilometers] per hour when it separated from the comet, we could see a beautiful meteor shower, “said Bill Cooke, who heads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, USA. Alabama, in the statement (opens in a new tab).
“If the debris had slower ejection rates,” Cooke added, “then nothing will come to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.”
Related: Meteor Shower Guide 2022: Dates & Viewing Tips
Another factor behind whether or not we will see a “storm” will be whether Earth passes through the thickest part of the comet’s debris stream. The flow is subject to the gravitational forces of our planet, moon, sun and other planets in our solar system, so it is difficult to predict.
But the things that are working in favor of North Americans include the new moon, which means there is less natural light pollution interfering with observations and the fact that Hercules is high in the sky at night (away from interference). atmospheric below the horizon).
The place to observe potential meteors would be the constellation of Boote, a little north-northwest of its bright star Arcturus. (These are the names of the International Astronomical Union for the constellation and the star respectively, although you may use different names depending on your culture.)
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The comet has a character history. The comet showed bursts of brightness in years like 1995 and 2000 during fragmentation and spread in front of observatories such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. There are at least 68 pieces associated with the comet since its last appearance in 2017.
The comet was discovered 92 years ago by German astronomers, Friedrich Carl Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann on May 2, 1930, and was the third small world co-discovered by that pair.
The comet approaches Earth at 5.7 million miles (9.2 million km), orbiting the sun roughly every 5.4 years, according to Space.com astronomy columnist Joe Rao.
If the meteor shower doesn’t go as expected, or you’re clouded or busy, consider some upcoming meteor showers of 2022 instead to plan your next hike. The next big event is the Perseids from 11 to 12 August, among the brightest events of the year.
If you are hoping to photograph the Tau Herculid meteor shower or want to prepare your gear for the next skywatching event, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Read our guide on how to photograph meteors and meteor showers for more helpful tips for planning your photo shoot.
Editor’s Note: If you take an amazing photo of the Tau Herculids meteor shower and would like to share it with Space.com readers, please send your photos, comments, your name and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.