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Orbiting the sun about every 5.5 years, this comet has continued to disintegrate since its initial disruption. Dozens of bits and pieces have crumbled off the original fragments over the past 27 years. Astronomers worldwide have since investigated whether Earth will pass through this swarm of freshly ejected material and, if so, whether it might lead to a meteor shower. Skywatchers likely won’t reach a consensus until a meteor shower either shows up late on the night of May 30 or fails to do so.

Usually, meteor showers occur when Earth passes through tiny particles that trail behind the comet, with the comet crossing the point where the two orbits intersect before Earth does. But during this encounter, Earth will pass through the intersection first.

Usually, that would mean no meteor shower to be had. However, when this particular comet fell apart, it acted violently, shooting out material in all directions at high speeds. And while the pressure of solar radiation would have pushed all the dust-like fragments into the tail, it shouldn’t have been able to affect larger debris the size of gravel or pebbles.

Unfortunately, such calculations are fraught with uncertainties that could mean the difference between all or nothing.

Perhaps Earth will encounter very few comet particles or even none at all. Another possibility is that the meteors will be numerous but so slow that they are very faint or not visible at all to the naked eye. Since we have never encountered this swarm before, we can’t say for sure what to expect.

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Alice is the Chief Editor with relevant experience of three years, Alice has founded Galaxy Reporters. She has a keen interest in the field of science. She is the pillar behind the in-depth coverages of Science news. She has written several papers and high-level documentation.


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