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Get ready for a spectacular night thanks to the tau Herculids meteor shower tonight

The meteor shower will be visible in most of North America territory and here is everything you need to know to watch it live.

A few days ago NASA surprised the cosmic lovers’ community with the news that an unexpected star shower could appear in the sky, also known as tau Herculids. If the necessary conditions are met, we will be able to admire thousands of shooting stars streaking across the sky. The astronomical event can be admired live in most of the North American territory. Here are the details you need to know in case you want to go past bedtime and admire such a spectacle.

Tau Herculid Star Shower

The tau Herculids is an unexpected star shower, which means that it is not an astronomical event that occurs annually like all other meteor showers, but it is an out-of-the-ordinary event.

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On Monday night the Earth will pass right through the debris left behind by comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3), giving us the opportunity to see a meteor storm. This is a star shower of colossal magnitude.

To put it in perspective, the Geminids, the highest magnitude meteor shower that occurs annually in December, gives us 120 meteors per hour (THZ) under optimal conditions. On the other hand, the tau Herculides could present a zenithal hourly rate of 1,000 meteors per hour.

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However, it is not all good news, just as there is a chance that on the night of May 30 we will be able to admire an unprecedented meteor shower, there is also a small chance that it will not happen. In other words, it is an all-or-nothing that depends on the whims of the cosmos.

“This is going to be an all-or-nothing event. 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. If the debris had slower ejection speeds, then nothing will make it to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet,” Bill Cooke, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement.

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How and at what time to see the tau Herculid star shower?

Whether the tau Herculids will delight us with thousands of meteors or not, you can follow it live. The star shower will be available to watch on the Virtual Telescope Project’s live stream on its YouTube channel. NASA recommends looking at the night sky around 1:00 am for those on the East Coast or 10:00 pm on the West Coast.

The broadcast will not only feature a single view of the firmament but will be interspersed with views from cameras surveying the entire Arizona sky, as well as from a more southerly perspective on cameras aimed at the skies over Brazil.

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Comet SW3

In 1930 German astronomers Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann discovered a comet in the sky they named 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or ‘SW3′, and calculated its solar orbit every 5.4 years. But the small comet went unnoticed because it was not strong enough to be seen with the naked eye in the sky.

We lost track of it until 1995 when astronomers noticed that the comet had become about 600 times brighter. It was transformed from a non-visible object to a comet observable with the naked eye in the sky, but in addition, researchers discovered that it had broken into several pieces, filling its own orbital trail with reminiscences. After this, it was observed again in 2006 and was already almost fragmented into 70 pieces and has continued to do so since then.

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This is why it has been predicted that on its next visit to Earth, with all its trail of reminiscences, it will generate an unexpected shower of stars. Although this year it is believed that the chances of a meteor storm are due to the fact that its radiant will be at the top of the sky just at the hour of maximum predicted activity. And as if the conditions were not already encouraging, the Moon is almost entering its new phase, so it will not interfere with the brightness of the meteors.

Story originally published in Ecoosfera

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