meteor shower may 30

An extremely rare meteor shower could light up Ontario skies tonight

If stargazers are lucky, the super rare tau Herculid meteor shower will light up the sky across Ontario tonight — providing onlookers with a spectular celestial event.

According to The Weather Network, astronomers believe Earth could pass through a concentrated cluster of debris from 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 tonight, a comet that was shattered in 1995.

Though it's not guaranteed, experts say the event could "produce an outburst that rivals the major annual meteor showers."

If the debris from SW3 was traveling more than 220 miles per hour when it separated from the comet, then observers will likely see a striking meteor shower tonight, with the potential for up to 1,000 meteors to be visible per hour.

And those located in North America — especially the eastern half of Canada — have the best chance of seeing the potential shower.

"North American stargazers are taking particular note this year because the tau Herculid radiant will be high in the night sky at the forecast peak time," reads a NASA blog post about the event. "Even better, the Moon is new, so there will be no moonlight to wash out the faint meteors."

Toronto residents hoping to catch a glimpse of this astronomical show will have to escape the city light pollution to do so. Travelling north of the city and heading to one of Ontario's provincial parks is likely your best bet, but stargazing from a suburban parking lot might also do if it's your only option.  

But don't get your hopes up too high, because there are no guarantees the shower will manifest.

"The questions that remain are 1) how much debris is in our path for Monday night, and 2) exactly how fast will it be travelling when it gets swept up by Earth's atmosphere. (The faster the meteoroids are travelling, the more likely they are to produce a flash when they are swept up by Earth's atmosphere)," wrote TWN meteorologist Scott Sutherland.

"If there is only a small amount of relatively slow-moving meteoroids, we likely won't see anything. The meteor shower may still occur, but as the researchers point out, it may only be picked up by Canadian Meteor Radar," he continued.

"If there is a lot of fast-moving debris, though, with plenty of 'sand' and 'gravel' mixed in with the dust, we will see a spectacular display light up the sky."

Lead photo by

Vincent Ng

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