How to See the Tau Herculid Meteor Shower
NASA says the best time to watch will be around 1 a.m. on the east coast and 10 p.m. on the west coast, with viewers in North America having the best view of the potential display. The American Meteor Society (AMS) adds that the viewing window can be short, lasting only about half an hour.
Still, it’s important to remember that there are no guarantees here. “If the fragments were ejected at speeds greater than twice normal speeds – fast enough to reach Earth – we could have a meteor shower,” NASA said. He adds that Spitzer’s observations published in 2009 suggest that some of the fragments are moving quite quickly. “That’s one of the reasons astronomers are excited.”
If we get a meteor shower, there may be many meteors in the sky, but they won’t be bright. These meteors will be relatively slow moving and somewhat dark. “If the debris from SW3 was traveling over 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, we could see a nice meteor shower,” Cooke said in a NASA blog post. “If the debris had slower ejection velocities, then nothing will happen to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.”
If there’s anything to see, it’s a good night for a meteor shower, as long as you have clear skies. (Sorry, Upper Midwest.) There’s a new moon, so the moon won’t wash out the weaker meteors.
To have the best chance of experiencing potential celestial pleasure, you’ll need to be under clear, dark skies. You want to be away from city lights as this rampant light pollution will make it difficult, if not impossible, to see these dark meteors. With such a short window to view the peak of the potential shower, it will be important to find your vantage point long before this window. You want to be prepared and have given your eyes time to adjust to the dark so you can see as many meteors as possible. Our eyes adjust somewhat slowly to darkness, and this adjustment can be altered by looking at a phone or using a flashlight that doesn’t emit red light.
The AMS succinctly sums up the balance of the unknown enthusiastically on its site: “When looking at events like these, don’t expect anything out of the ordinary, but hope for the best!” It might be worth going out and hoping you get a Memorial Day weekend treat tonight.