Skywatchers could get a bonus this weekend if a meteor storm unrelated to a large meteor shower could brighten the morning.
In the early hours of Sunday, May 15, our planet will pass through a debris field left behind by a large asteroid called 2006 GY2, which completes a single orbit around the Sun every 925 days, crossing Earth’s orbit in the process.
“This object is actually a double minor planet, with the main body estimated at 400 meters (1,312 ft) and the secondary satellite at 80 meters (262 ft),” wrote Robert Lunsford for the American Meteor Society. “Although the density of the debris field is unknown, the fact that this object is a binary asteroid can provide a dense debris stream.”
When dust and space rocks collide with our atmosphere, they can burn up, creating fleeting “shooting stars,” or more brightly burning fireballs.
Stellar 2021 Perseid meteor shower lights up footage from around the world
View all photos
AMS doesn’t make predictions about how many meteors we might be able to see in the sky, but Lunsford notes that the potential peak observation time is as close as possible to 3:20 p.m. PT.
“This timing is ideal for the US Southwest and Mexico. Unfortunately, the moon is only a day away from full moon and any faint meteors will most likely be obscured by the intense moonlight,” Lunsford said.
The moon itself makes an appearance with one just a few hours latertakes place from Sunday evening to Monday morning.
If you can get up before sunrise on Sunday to watch the meteor show, you should choose a viewing location that is as far away from light pollution as possible and offers a wide view of the sky. Give yourself at least an hour for the entire viewing experience, including 15 to 20 minutes to allow your eyes to adjust.
Good luck and let me know on twitter what you see.