The Tau Herculids are predicted to shower across the night sky during the last week of May, with peak visibility on the night of May 30, into the early morning hours of May 31, according to NASA.
Where will the meteor shower be visible? The meteor shower will be visible in North and Central America.
- The most optimal viewing spots will range from Southern California and Mexico to Texas, according to The New York Times.
Optimal viewing conditions: The New York Times reports that the moon will be new on May 30, so the meteors won’t be competing with moonlight for visibility. This makes great conditions for viewing a potential meteor shower.
Story of the Tau Herculids: In 1930, German astronomers discovered a comet that they named after themselves — the 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, also known as SW3.
- The comet orbited the sun every five years, and wasn’t visible in the night sky again until the 1970s.
- In 1995, the comet appeared again, this time about 600 times more visible than before.
- Astronomers realized that the comet had broken into several different pieces, and when it appeared again in 2006, the comet was in nearly 70 pieces, according to NASA. The comet has continued to break into pieces over time.
All or nothing: However, some astronomers have predicted that the comet may not make it to earth after all. “This is going to be an all or nothing event,” said Bill Cooke, the lead at NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, per NASA.
- “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,” Cooke said.