Possible Meteor Spectacle - May 31, 2022

Though I dislike suggesting some celestial event may be spectacular, a May 31, 2022, meteor shower merits looking up in case it truly is grand. See a descriptive Universe Today article about the speculation over whether the Tau Herculid meteor shower will be a storm for the generations; see the original paper with Ongoing Meteor Work by Joe Rao for details.


The radiant of the meteor shower--the point from which they appear to emanate--is about a third of the way between Arcturus in Bootes and the end of the handle of the Big Dipper. Shown below before astronomical twilight around 4:00 a.m. EDT, you can follow the arc of the Big Dipper's handle to find Arcturus. Viewing will be better in the Midwest, and the radiant will have set in the Pacific Northwest when the shower is expected to peak, but you should observe anyhow after midnight to catch a glimpse.



I remember when the 1998 Leonids were predicted to surge, and I took a chance to observe the meteor shower in an Ohio farm field. It proved to be the most spectacular meteor shower I've ever seen, with over 500 streaks counted in an hour. With that in mind, I'll certainly be up late on May 31 and into the wee hours of June 1 to peek at the peak. If you don't seek, you won't find.


The source of meteors for the Tau Herculid meteor shower is Comet 73P, imaged by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/W. Reach. When the debris left by the comet impacts the earth's atmosphere at high speed and blazes momentarily, we see the resultant "shooting stars", which are really no stars at all.



Comet 73p by Spitzer Space Telescope.

Added June 6, 2022:

The night of the meteor shower I saw my first meteor at 11:59 pm. Withing twenty minutes I had seen about 18 meteors, including one long trail that ended in a bright flash. However, in the ensuing hours I saw only a handful more.

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