Spectacular New Tau Herculids Meteor Shower May Light Up the Skies Over North America

Astronomers are excited about the possibility of a new meteor shower on May 30-31, the tau Herculid shower, forecast to peak on the night of May 30 and early morning of May 31. 

Back in 1930, German observers Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann discovered a comet known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or “SW3, which orbited the Sun every 5.4 years. 

SW3 wasn’t seen again until the late 1970s, seeming pretty normal until 1995, when astronomers realized the comet had become about 600 times brighter and went from a faint smudge to being visible with the naked eye during its passage. 

All the excitement from astronomers and the public has sparked a lot of information about the tau Herculids. Some has been accurate, and some has not. 

We get excited about meteor showers, too! But sometimes events like this don’t live up to expectations – it happened with the 2019 Alpha Monocerotid shower, for example. And some astronomers predict a dazzling display of tau Herculids could be “hit or miss.” 

– Spitzer observations published in 2009 indicate that at least some fragments are moving fast enough. This is one reason why astronomers are excited.

Observers in North America under clear, dark skies have the best chance of seeing a tau Herculid shower. The peak time to watch is around 1 a.m. on the East Coast or 10 p.m. on the West Coast.