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Broken comet could leave behind impressive meteor shower

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Posted at 8:42 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 14:56:07-04

NASA said that a meteor shower Monday night into Tuesday morning could be a dazzling display or a bust.

According to NASA, Earth will pass through the debris left behind from 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann, a broken comet. The comet broke apart in 1995 and left behind large fragments.

If the fragments were ejected at speeds greater than usual, we could be in for a meteor shower. NASA said that observations from Spitzer found some of the key pieces left behind the broken comet are “moving fast enough.”

NASA said if all goes well, the best time to view the meteor shower will be around 1 a.m. ET Tuesday or 10 p.m. PT Monday.

“This is going to be an all-or-nothing event,” Bill Cooke said, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “If the debris from SW3 was traveling more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, we might see a nice meteor shower. If the debris had slower ejection speeds, then nothing will make it to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.”

NASA said the meteors might be fainter than normal meteor showers because the fragments could slowly enter the atmosphere. However, NASA said the meteors could be easier to see because of the new moon cycle.

Comets are frozen leftovers from the solar system's formation composed of dust, rock, and ice, NASA said. This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.