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New moon meteor shower - Skywatch 16

Newswatch 16's John Hickey says the waning days of May also come with a waning moon. This will potentially help set the stage for an impressive meteor shower.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Our planetary lineup in the pre-dawn sky continues this week. The morning planets will have some company.

"We have a couple conjunctions coming up. The morning of the 25th, we have the crescent moon going to be in conjunction with the planet Mars and Jupiter. Two days later, on the 27th, it's going to have a conjunction with the crescent moon and the planet Venus," said Tom Wildoner, Darkside Observatory.

Wildoner is from the Darkside Observatory in Weatherly. We had an online chat about the darkening night sky this week, thanks to the New Moon phase.

"It happens when the moon moves between the sun and Earth and is not visible," said Wildoner.

The New Moon on the night of Monday the 30th lines up perfectly with a lesser-known meteor shower.               

"This meteor shower is called the Tau Herculids. The Tau Herculids are formed by a comet that was discovered in the year 1930. It emanates from the constellation Hercules. Hercules is going to be almost right overhead around 11 p.m. So the radiant point most of the night is going to be right overhead," said Wildoner.

Typically the Tau Herculids are nothing to write home about. They are known for producing only a meteor or two per hour. 

This year could be very different, "In 1995, in a return to Earth's solar system, it fragmented. It broke into hundreds of different pieces. Scientists are estimating that we're going to go through this dense portion of this debris field on the night of May 30th," said Wildoner.

While this has the potential to be a spectacular meteor shower - here's a cautionary tale.            

"NASA has stated that this meteor shower is going to be boom or bust. It's either going to be a fantastic meteor shower where you may get thousands of meteors per hour, or you aren't going to get any. It's going to be one or the other," explained Wildoner.

The potentially spectacular meteor shower will also be brief. So look up and hope for a clear sky Monday night.

See past Skywatch 16 segments on YouTube:

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