Between asteroids that are “dangerously” approaching the Earth and meteor showers you really have to be careful when you leave the house (but it might not even be enough …). Joking aside, next Monday the inhabitants of North America could attend one of the most fascinating shows of recent times: one meteor storm. Astronomers, however, put their hands forward: the probability is there, but as such the phenomenon may not even occur.
There rain of Tau Herculid could potentially gift us up to 1,000 shooting stars per hour, an impressive number and definitely higher than the 50-100 of the Geminids and Perseids. The comet will generate the meteor shower next Monday Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, discovered in 1930 by Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann and who occasionally visits the Earth giving us breathtaking spectacles. It was initially considered a faint comet, then it became 600 times brighter due to its fragmentation. It was last seen in 2006 and was split into about 70 pieces.
To explain why the storm is not certain to occur is Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office:
If the SW3 debris traveled more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, then we could see a nice meteor shower. If the debris had a slower ejection rate, nothing will reach Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.
In short, “it will be an all or nothing event“. And if it will all be where will we have to look? And at what time?
First of all we Europeans will, unfortunately, be excluded from the possible spectacle: On Monday around 1 am EST, North Americans will have the chance to observe the sky above their heads. This year the speed of the debris will be particularly slow, but unlike other times the conditions “on Earth” are perfect – provided there is good weather: the radiant will be high in the sky (i.e. the point from which the debris comes), and the Moon will be new thus offering almost total darkness.
In history they have been the Leonids to offer the most beautiful shows: in Boston in 1833for example, a meteor storm occurred so powerful that the Irish astronomer Agnes Mary Clerke said that “i estimates that the frequency of meteors is about half that of snowflakes in an average snow storm“This phenomenon lasted even 9 hours, with about 240,000 shooting stars every hour.
Recall that, as Bill Cooke says, “meteors are not uncommon“: it all depends on their size and the speed with which they hit the upper atmosphere.”The Earth is bombarded every day with millions of interplanetary debris fragments that quickly pass through our solar system“. In contact with the atmosphere, the particles ignite and burn: think that on a clear night it is possible to see between 4 and 8 meteorites per hour. Another matter, as we have seen, are meteor showers.