A shattered comet could trigger a visible meteor shower on Monday

Space enthusiasts could get their money’s worth on Monday when the Tau Herculid meteor shower is expected to light up the sky – depending on the speed and distance of the meteoroids.

NASA says Earth will pass debris trails left by a shattered comet that crashed in 1995.

If these fragments of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Washmann (SW3) were ejected at twice the speed, a dazzling spectacle awaits viewers.

“It would be a really spectacular meteor storm, people are even citing up to 1,000 meteors that would be visible per hour,” astrophysicist and coordinator of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the Université de Montréal, Nathalie Ouellette, told on Friday phone interview.

In comparison, a typical shower hits an average of one meteor per minute, about 60 per hour, Outtlete said. Ultimately, however, the speed and direction of the fragments determine how much spectacle is presented to the viewers.

“The problem is that because we’re going through this debris field for the first time, we’re potentially going to go right in front of it and miss most of the really good big chunks,” she said.

The head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Bill Cooke, described the shower as an “all or nothing” event.

“If the debris from SW3 was traveling more than 220 miles per hour (354 kilometers per hour) when it separated from the comet, we could see a nice meteor shower. If the debris had slower ejection velocities, nothing will reach Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet,” Cooke said in a NASA blog post.

While the actual speed of the Tau Herculid shower will be slow, reaching speeds as low as 16 kilometers per second (10 miles per second), the potential for a spectacle is still there as the true size of the meteorite’s mass distribution is unknown. according to the International Meteor Organization.

In addition, the current new moon allows for better optics when showering.

“Typically, a full moon isn’t so good during a meteor shower because the moon drowns out any shooting stars,” Ouellette explained.

“Because we have a new moon, we’re actually going to have pretty dark skies, so that’s good news.”

SW3 was discovered in 1930 by German observers Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann. The comet was faint for most of its life until it brightened 600 times in 1995 after it shattered, dragging debris along its trail.

North American viewers can look out for the shower at 1 a.m. on the East Coast and 10 p.m. on the West Coast, according to NASA.

Ouellette advises observers to settle in a dark area and arrive early so your eyes can adjust to the darkness.

“It takes your eyes about 20 minutes to adjust to a dark sky. So be patient and definitely don’t look at your phone or you’ll ruin your eyes for the next 20 minutes,” she said.

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