Brilliant ‘shooting stars’ from a new meteor shower lit up the night sky in a dazzling display overnight Monday through Tuesday, though it was not a ‘meteor storm’ that some astronomers hoped.
New meteor shower peaked around midnight Tuesday (May 31) as the remnants of shattered Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (also known as SW 3) burned harmlessly into earth’s atmosphere as a part of the scientists now wall the tau Herculids meteor shower.
Although the Shooting Star Fiesta never reached “meteor storm” conditions (with up to 1,000 meteors per hour), it produced enough bright meteors to attract worldwide attention. (NASA had warned the storm would only occur if the debris moved faster than 220 mph or 321 km/h, and its meteor expert Bill Cooke warned it was a “all or nothing event.”
Related: Biggest meteor storms of all time
“It was not the expected storm, but the Earth clearly passed through a cloud of dust from the comet,” said the French Network of Amateur Meteor Observers (BOAM). wrote on Twitter (opens in a new tab) with an accelerated image of shooting stars. (Translation from French was done by Space.com.)
Renewed activity #meteor #TauHerculids last night. It’s not the expected storm but the 🌍 has passed through a cloud of dust from comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann.Image: 36 #meteor, 30-31/05/2022, camera CAMS3900 from @astronomie54 #Nancy #France pic.twitter.com/zs2TQ4zpaHMay 31, 2022
NASA engineer Tim Reyes, who is based in Silicon Valley, spent several hours observing the tau Herculids. By posting his observations and an image on his personal Twitter account (opens in a new tab)he said, “No storm level, shower above average [and] short duration, about three hours.”
The peak was also half an hour later than expected, Reyes said, occurring at 10:30 p.m. PDT (1:30 a.m. EDT or 0550 GMT).
#TauHerculids 2022.My Observations: No storm levelShower above averageShort duration, about 3 hoursPeak was at 10:30 p.m. PDT not 945 or 10 p.m. pic.twitter.com/XVome9qnx0May 31, 2022
Many other observers captured the storm in the United States, along with images and, in some cases, other celestial objects such as the Milky Way. The observations were aided by a new Moonand in the Americas, the radiant out of the Constellation of Hercules was high in the sky and away from the thicker atmospheric conditions near the horizon.
If you missed the show, check out our upcoming meteor showers of 2022 to determine the next date to search. August is usually a good time, as this year the Perseids bright peak is between August 11-12.
If you’re hoping to photograph a meteor shower or want to get your gear ready for the next skywatching event, check out our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography. Read our guide to how to photograph meteors and meteor showers for more helpful tips for planning your photo shoot.
No meteor storm, but definitely some #TauHerculids tonight, and an excuse to photograph the Milky Way. @DamAstronomy @Chesapecten @Astroguyz @BadAstronomer @JeffEdmondsonWX pic.twitter.com/htfHAZdzR4May 31, 2022
Bright, slow-moving Tau Herculid meteor over North Los Angeles. #TauHerculids pic.twitter.com/XGIrigQKx8May 31, 2022
#TauHerculids saw about 25 tonight at 10:30 in MN CT..excited I caught a few pic.twitter.com/4OchreEQG4May 31, 2022
#TauHerculids over Middleville, Michigan just after midnight. #wmiwx #miwx #StormHour #Astrophotography #Meteors pic.twitter.com/P6nyWA5FCrMay 31, 2022
From rural central Texas I could see a few small but bright short burst fireballs. I managed to capture one by zooming past Ursa Major (the “Big Dipper 🙂 with a 12mm lens and a Nikon D750 @ ISO8000 (!). #TauHerculids #meteor #astronomy pic.twitter.com/d58sKUji8MMay 31, 2022
Criss-crossing the night sky, fragments of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 are entering Earth’s atmosphere at breakneck speed and providing a brilliant spectacle for the #TauHerculids meteor shower. pic.twitter.com/5ffsY5onBPMay 31, 2022
Sporadic large meteor (possibly #TauHerculids) last night at 10:21 p.m., Colorado looking at SSW. I had a few weaker meteors and satellites before the big clouds moved in. pic.twitter.com/QzYsx3z2cdMay 31, 2022
Caught this streaming beauty on Mount Lukens from La Crescenta (9 mi north of downtown #LosAngeles)!May 31, 2022
Editor’s note: If you take an amazing photo of the tau Herculids meteor shower and want to share it with Space.com readers, send your photo(s), comments, and name and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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