How to see ‘all-or-nothing’ meteor shower on Memorial Day

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How to see 'all-or-nothing' meteor shower on Memorial Day

A spectacular meteor shower may light up the sky in what astronomers say will be an “all-or-nothing” event overnight on Monday.

For those on or near the Eastern seaboard, NASA says that the best chance to view the tau Herculid shower will be at around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, or 10 p.m. on the West Coast.

However, NASA says while there is no moonlight that would obscure the meteors, that still doesn’t guarantee that there will be something to marvel at tonight.

“This is going to be an all-or-nothing event,” Bill Cooke, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said in a report.

“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.”

Meteors are parts of rock and dust that hit the Earth’s atmosphere, heat up and glow. Most vaporize as they descend, but some explode.

Scientists say that the planet will be passing through the debris trail of a broken comet that was first discovered nearly 100 years ago.

This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the broken Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 skimming along a trail of debris left during its multiple trips around the sun. The flame-like objects are the comet’s fragments and their tails, while the dusty comet trail is the line bridging the fragments.
An infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the broken Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3.
NASA
The comet may be visible to residents of North America beginning at 1 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.
The comet may be visible to residents of North America beginning at 1 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.
NASA / SWNS

The comet is officially known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or SW3. It was named after the two German scientists who first discovered it in 1930 — Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachman.

According to NASA, the comet wasn’t seen again until the late 1970s. In the 1990s, the comet broke into several pieces.

Since then, the comet has broken into dozens of smaller pieces and tiny bits of debris and dust. 

A mosaic of images from the Eta Aquariids in 2013.
A mosaic of images from the Eta Aquariids in 2013.
NASA All Sky Fireball Network
The view of a 2013 meteor shower from New Mexico.
The view of a 2013 meteor shower from New Mexico.
NASA Meteoroid Environment Offic

In 2006, the comet was in at least 70 pieces when it approached Earth.

To increase your chances of watching the celestial event, astronomers say you’ll want to be outside at least an hour before this so your eyes have a chance to adjust to the dark.

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