Comet, officially known as 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, or SW3, was discovered in 1930 by German observers Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachman. NASA said it wasn’t spotted again until the late 1970s, and in the 1990s the comet broke into several pieces.
By the time SW3 passed Earth again in 2006, it was made up of about 70 pieces, and has continued to fragment further since then, the statement said. It was not clear if the debris would hit Earth’s atmosphere at a speed high enough to cause meteor showers.
Each year, there are about 30 meteor showers, which occur when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet or asteroid, which can be seen with the naked eye.
Meteor showers are usually named after the constellation that appears to be shining in the night sky, although Robert Lunsford, general secretary of the International Meteor Organization, said the Tau Hercules was incorrectly named.
In a blog written before Monday’s meteor shower, he said it would appear to radiate from a constellation known as Bootes, northwest of the bright orange star known as Arcturus (alpha Bootis).
More meteor showers
There are many other opportunities to witness meteor showers this year.
Delta Aquariids are best seen from the southern tropics and will peak between July 28 and 29, when the moon is 74% full.
Interestingly, another meteor shower peaks on the same night – Alpha Capricorn. Although this shower is much weaker, it has been known to produce some bright fireballs during its peak. It will be visible to everyone, no matter which side of the equator they are on.
It will peak between August 11 and 12 in the Northern Hemisphere.
- October 8: Draconids
- October 21: Orionids
- November 4-5: South Taurids
- November 11-12: North of Torres
- November 17: Leonids
- December 13-14: Gemini
- December 22: Ursids
Ashley Strickland contributed to this report.
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