Tau Herculids meteor shower could release 1,000 falling stars per hour

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Astronomers say a “meteor storm” is likely to occur next Monday night. It probably won’t, but if it does, the screen could be completely weird.

The impending Tau Herculid meteor shower usually only results in a drop of mid-May to mid-June, but it is likely to be something very special this year. Astronomers are focusing on an accumulation of comet debris that – if placed right in Earth’s orbit – could trigger such a meteorite eruption.

100,000 falling stars per hour: What a “meteor storm” does

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a stream of debris left behind by comets, asteroids, or other celestial bodies. Most are the size of puffed rice grains or small pebbles and produce incredible screens as they burn in our outdoor atmosphere. Meteorological storms occur when the Earth enters an unusually dense and intense accumulation of interstellar debris – similar to driving through a swarm of bugs on the freeway. In an instant, your windshield would be covered with spots that would enter the direction of your trip.

That’s why – in the unlikely event that things align properly – an explosion of up to 1,000 falling stars per hour may be possible.

Where do the debris come from?

Every meteor shower is associated with an object in space. In the case of the Perseids in August, the wreckage came from comet Swift-Tuttle, while the Gemini in December were fired by an asteroid called the 3200 Phaethon. Both screens result in 50 to 100 meteorites every hour when viewed under clear, dark skies.

With the Tau Herculid shower, the mother comet is Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3), who approached the sun on October 16, 2011. Since then, it has been in the process of fragmentation and decomposition.

The comet was discovered in 1930 and orbits the sun every 5.4 years. However, it was not found again until the end of 1979, making a series of secret passages from Earth. The comet unexpectedly adorned the night sky in 1995 after apparently breaking into four pieces.

There are now more than a dozen pieces and each fragment, especially that of 1995, can lead to billions of tiny pieces of debris.

Due to the effects of mass, gravity and pressure due to sunlight, some of the gravel-sized pieces of debris may take smaller orbits that would put them front of the main comet, and in orbit for possible intersection with the Earth’s orbit.

What are the chances of causing a meteor shower?

According to space.com, many astronomers are optimistic that a new meteor shower may be approaching this year, and some even claim that meteor shower levels – equivalent to 1,000 falling stars per hour – could be reached.

That said, astronomers do not know how far the fragments have spread, nor the size of the cloud of debris.

Meteorite rates could range between one and 1,000 meteorites per hour. If a meteor shower occurs, it will only last maybe an hour or two, and probably less.

“This will be an all-or-nothing event,” wrote Bill Cook, who heads NASA’s Office of the Meteorological Environment. “If the debris from SW3 traveled more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, we can see a nice meteor shower. “If the wreckage had slower launch velocities, then nothing would reach Earth and there would be no meteorites from this comet.”

If a storm happens, you will not you want to lose it.

Astronomers have found that the most probable time for the peak of any appearance may or may not be around 1 p.m. Eastern time next Monday night / Tuesday morning. The “radiant” point of the rain, or the part of the sky from which meteorites appear, will be high in the sky above North America at that time, so there is no specific place in the sky to look at.

Of course, you will want to isolate yourself from bright lights or obstacles and move to an area with a wide view of the sky. It will be if the weather allows, of course.

Meteorological storms have occurred with the Leonid meteor shower, which occurs every year in November. Usually, the Leonids throw only a few falling stars an hour from above, making an unparalleled show. But once in a while, the skies explode with sudden peaks of extreme activity and meteorite rates of 100,000 per hour.

In 902 AD, astronomers in North Africa and China narrated stars falling “like rain”. Another meteor shower was observed in present-day Venezuela in 1799.

It happened again in 1833. “In Boston, the frequency of meteorites was estimated to be about half that of snowflakes in a medium blizzard,” wrote Irish astronomer Agnes Mary Clerke, who said the storm lasted about nine hours. Clerke estimates meteorite levels unheard of up to 240,000 falling per hour. This is more than 60 shooting stars per second.

The Leonids were dazzled again on the night of November 13-14, 1866. A Maltese newspaper published an eyewitness account describing the scene as “truly magnificent and imposing; one of the most magnificent I have ever seen.”

Another meteor shower came in 1966, setting off an equally wonderful fireworks display in the United States. Eyewitness Christine Downing, who drove north of Mojave, California, saw two falling stars every five minutes, which “at the time … seemed unusual.” At 12:30 a.m. it started to “rain stars” and at 2 in the morning it was a “snowstorm”. ”

Her description, which can be read in full on a NASA website, is one of many from that night. “There was a worrying feeling that the mountains were on fire,” Downing wrote. “The falling stars filled the whole sky to the horizon, but it was silent.”

In 1999 and 2001 there were additional outbreaks of tamarind.

There are no meteor showers from the Leonids or any other rain that has been explicitly predicted in our lifetime, nor is it likely that we will encounter something similar to what previous generations have seen – but next week may offer a taste.

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