An unusual shooting star can occur tonight!

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Where do they come from? How many are they? Their name comes from the Greek komêtês meaning “hair”. In Japan, they get the nickname “star diet”. So many names that refer to their very different faces from the stars shining in the sky. Get to know them on video!

It’s rainingshooting stars every month, with more or less intensity. The most famous of these is without a doubt Perseideractive every summer during the holiday season, they delight their many observers during their peak on 12-13. August by about a hundred meteoroids hour on average (with peaks of 120 or 140). Less known, the Geminider, in December, are also very generous. As for those announced for this May 31st, called tau Herculides (τ-Herculides), which are usually not very active, this year they were able to surpass all the others with an hourly rate of 1,000 meteors. Even more so if the predictions come true. No more talking about shooting starsbut of storm shooting stars!

How do you explain this sudden storm of shooting stars?

However, it is wise to talk about it in the conditional. The predictions are based on two studies solid of scientists whose models agree that by the year 2022 the Earth will encounter in its orbit several streams of waste swarmed by Comet 73P / Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (that comet 73P, too short) in the wake of its fragmentation in 1995. empire which would reinforce the notion.

“Our work suggests that the contrail thrown out during the 1995 pass will hit Earth on May 31, 2022, with a peak centered at 05:01 UT (07:01 Paris time), that is, similar to what previous studies have found. “ writes Jérémie Vaubaillon, from IMCCE.

What exactly is a shooting star? The answer with Franck Menant, in Futura in the Stars. © Futura

This comet, which returns every 5.4 years (circulation period) has been known since 1930, when its discoverers expected it to be very ingenious. They were eventually disappointed, and later observations suggested that the elongated shape of its core was the result of fragmentation. In any case, this is what happened in 1995 during eyes wide open to more telescopes. Hubble and Spitzer later observed, in 2006 and 2007, the procession of dust and ice waste.

Animation created from Hubble’s multiple observations of Comet 73P. © Nasa

The best time to observe meteor showers

Either way, it’s better to be ready, because if an eruption occurs, it will be amazing: certainly the most beautiful shower of shooting stars of the year, and even at the beginning of this century. ” […] whatever you do, be prepared for surprises !, launches Jérémie Vaubaillon. And a bad surprise (e.g. a very weak ZHR) will in any case teach us something about the science of comets, meteors, meteoroids and the celestial mechanics. Solar system. »

The best time to surprise them, according to forecasts, will therefore be late at night for Western Europe, with possible surprises before (that’s why we need to be patient and on the lookout). The situation looks more favorable for the American continent (especially in Baja California, Mexico), where it will still be deep night. Especially since Moon will be absent so as to avoid disturbing the observation of these small grains, which will hit the high atmosphere terrestrial to small velocity (approx. 12 km / s). Pretty slow meteors that could rain in the hundreds and not always easy to see through because they are weak.

The name Herculides rope comes from the star of the same name constellation of Hercules near, which was located brilliant of’meteor swarm when it was discovered in 1930. This year, the radiant should rather be sought in the Bouvier, not far from its brightest star Arcturus, with a red glow and easy to spot in the extension of the handle of the “Grande Casserole”. Good observation, and provided that the bursting of shooting stars is violent!

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Several specialists believe that the night between May 23 and 24 will probably be the scene of an unusual shower of shooting stars. The debris swarmed several decades ago by comet 209P / Linear could actually be damaged in our atmosphere. The less optimistic nevertheless predict an intense rain, marked by the fall of 100 to 400 meteors per hour. A show you must not miss.

The traditional rain of shooting stars spraying sparks on the balmy evenings around 12 and 13 August is the work of Perseideris far from the only meteor event of the year not to be missed: numerous swarms liven up our nights every month, like the latest Lyrids from the end of April or myriader of Leonider (November) and Geminids (December). Of course, it happens that their activity is weaker than expected, delayed for a few hours or even favorable for observers in another region of the world. The opposite can also happen, to the delight of those who have prepared to admire them.

Let us keep in mind that in each case, it is a question that arises from comets who have thrown away part of theirs gasdust and small grains during their periodic approach to Sun. Also the flight and abandonment of waste are unequal and related to flows with variable density. When it happens that the Earth crosses these swarms, their fall in the atmosphere evokes access to fever meteorite that we love so much to capture. Soon, probably the night between May 23 and 24, we might experience an unusual storm of shooting stars. Why such a phenomenon and what to expect.

The first to mention the possibility of a meteorite storm on this date were international specialists in the matter. From 2012, Esko Lyytinen, Peter Jenniskens (Nasa) and Jeremy Vaubaillon (Institute of Celestial Mechanics) has, after calculations, really realized that the waste streams emitted by the small comet 209P / Linear between 1803 and 1924 were to partially penetrate our atmosphere in the night between 23 and 24 May. These dusts will be so small that only the largest grains would be visible. Also, if they are in large numbers, as scientists predict, then we could witness a real meteorite storm that we have not seen in a long time …

Rain or meteor storm?

As confirmation of their calculations, other experts nevertheless dampen their optimism and prefer to talk about an activity altitude of between 100 and 400 meteors per hour. Below 1,000 meteors per hour to talk about a storm, the calculated peak is still huge compared to the famous Perseider, which usually surprises us with 100 to 150 meteors per hour, depending on the year. In any case, everyone warns that the activity is still difficult to predict, because the veins of waste from this comet were only discovered in 2004 thanks to the program Linear is still poorly understood. Small (the size of its core is estimated between 0.8 and 1 km) and very difficult to observe, its orbital period is only five years. On May 6, the hairy star, adorned with its tail of gas and dust, will reach its minimum distance from the Sun, or perihelion, which is 145 million kilometers (or 0.9 AU, a distance almost equal to that which separates us from our star). On May 29, it will be only 8.2 million kilometers, or 0.0554 AU, from Earth.

If its activity is confirmed, the swarm should have too radiant it Giraffe (Camelopardalis), a small and delicate constellation near the North Pole, wedged between Cassiopeia and Big bear. This circumpolar position is very beneficial for observers ofNorthern Hemisphere and guarantees visibility all night. Moreover, the Moon will not represent any obstacle because the fine crescent, in conjoined with the sparkling Venuswill not get up until 6 p.m. 04:30. To optimize the immersion, all that remains is to find a clear place and relatively spared light pollution invade our cities, to make you comfortable and then wait and count. The tension will of course remain until tonight, when the activity height of the Camélopardalides was high. Good to see!

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