In what might prove to be a treat for stargazers and space enthusiasts, a spectacular meteor shower is expected to take place on the night of May 30-31 this year.
Known as Tau Heculids, the shower could brighten up the night of May 30 and last till May 31 early morning. The meteor storm is actually the result of a disintegrated and bleeding comet that will make an appearance on the day. Known as Schwassmann-Wachmann or the SW3, the comet was named after the two observers from Germany, Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann.
One gets to see meteor showers when Earth passes through the debris of the comet. On May 30, it is expected that a fantastic light show display would be visible in the night sky. Explaining the dicey scenario, a meteor expert at NASA, Bill Cooke said, “If the debris from SW3 was travelling more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, we might see a nice meteor shower. If the debris had a slower ejection speed, then nothing will make it to the Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.”
This means that either there will be a breathtaking bright show of celestial debris in the sky or nothing at all.
The SW3 comet that is expected to cause the meteor shower was observed in 1930. However, it wasn’t spotted again until the 1970s due to its extreme faintness. Then in 1995, skywatchers were astonished when it appeared 600 times brighter and became visible even to naked eyes.
According to NASA, the striking radiance of the comet was due to its shatter “littering its own orbital trail with debris”. The comet passed Earth again in 2006 but it had fragmented into approx. 70 pieces by then. Later, it splintered further into more pieces.
Now, experts believe that if the conditions remain conducive, one could expect a meteor shower of 1,000 meteors per hour.