tau Herculid Meteor Shower

~~ a short essay ~~

by tkbrown

There may be a fantabulous meteor shower tonight, or it may prove to be nothing at all. NASA seems rather impressed with the possibility of a spectacular showing from the debris associated with the disintegration of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW 3). “Bill Cooke, a NASA astronomer who tracks meteor showers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama said it all depends on the speed of the material from the comet,” (Malik, 30 May 2022). He said, “‘If the debris from SW 3 was traveling more than 220 miles [354 kilometers] per hour when it separated from the comet, we might see a nice meteor shower,'” (Malik, 30 May 2022). However, Cooke later added, “‘If the debris had slower ejection speeds, then nothing will make it to Earth, and there will be no meteors from this comet.;’ it was Cooke who said the tau Herculid meteor shower would be ‘all or nothing‘,'” (Malik, 30 May 2022).

Comet SW 3 was first discovered 2 May 1930 by two astronomers–for whom it is named–at the Hamburg Observatory in Bergedorf, Germany, (Rao, 22 May 2022). “While exposing plates, the two men discovered the faint image of a tiny new comet,” (Rao, 22 May 2022)–92 years ago SW 3 first revealed itself. “The comet completes an orbit of the Sun every 5.4 years,” (Rao, 22 May 2022). Over the course of several decades, several orbits were not observed, but in March 1979, sky watchers began recording viewings again. Twenty-seven years ago, SW 3 increased in brightness and could be seen with the naked eye, (Malik, 30 May 2022; Rao, 22 May 2022). Prior to 1995, viewing SW 3 was only possible with telescopes, but in October 1995, the comet was boasting a brightness four times what it had been in previous orbits of the Sun. At this time, the comet was observed to have split, with “at least four remnants” seen. When visibility was recorded in 2006, Joe Rao reports more than sixty-eight fragments were noted, (Rao, 22 May 2022).

During SW 3’s 2017 orbit of the Sun, continued fragmentation was seen. So, tonight’s 2022 orbit may reveal numerous shooting stars across our darkened sky on this night: May 30/31. If the speed of entry into Earth’s orbit is fast enough, the fragments should be visible. A slow ingress will diminish their brightness, and they may not be seen. If Earth’s May 2022 passage is through a full-fledged meteor storm, tau Herculid’s implosion may once again be discernable. (Rao, 22 May 2022).

So, if you have plans to watch for tau Herculid’s meteor show tonight, let us know–afterward– what it was like. I am looking forward to reading your responses. Thank You for reading!


Here is what I have found so far regarding live viewings of the tau herculids meteor shower last night. From Facebook:

AIO Knowledge



This video was posted on msn.com 1 June 2022: tau Herculids meteor shower as seen in Brazil.


Photo Above: by Austin Schmid @Unsplash.com.



Malik, Tariq. (30 May 2022). How to watch the potential tau Herculids meteor storm live online tonight. “space.com.” (Retrieved 30 May 2022). https://www.space.com/meteor-storm-tau-herculids-shower-webcast?utm_source=notification.

Rao, Joe. (22 May 2022). A meteor shower outburst from a shattered comet may spawn new tau Herculids display on May 30. “space.com.” (Retrieved 30 May 2022). https://www.space.com/meteor-shower-outburst-tau-herculids-cohttps://www.space.com/meteor-shower-outburst-tau-herculids-comet-possible-2022met-possible-2022.