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DENVER (KDVR) – Colorado has the chance to see either a spectacular meteor storm on Monday night or nothing at all. It all depends on an observation from 2009 and the speed of the meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann (SW3) was first observed in 1930 by German astronomers as it orbits the Sun. In 1995 the comet broke into large fragments and is now considered a broken comet.

Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann (SW3) after it fragmented in 1995. The thin line in the middle is a debris trail from previous orbits around the sun. The larger fragments and their debris trails look like flames.
Courtesy NASA

When SW3 began to fragment in 1995, some fragments were ejected at double the normal speeds. If that is true some of those fragments could reach the Earth. Observations of SW3 in 2009 by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, show that some fragments are still moving fast enough.

The fragments that enter the atmosphere will be slightly larger than normal (the size of a grain of sand or smaller), meaning a brighter flash. However, the speed of the fragments plays a major role in if we can see anything. With slower speeds, the meteors will be very faint, and even slower means we will be able to see nothing.

If it all turns out as expected we could get a meteor storm, where we could see 1000+ meteors per hour. Or we could see nothing. To see this possible meteor storm, look to the east on Monday, May 30, around 11:00 PM.

The meteor storm will radiate from the constellation Hercules.