Astronomers say up to 1,000 shooting stars per hour possible in tonight’s meteor shower

Astronomers at NASA told skywatchers to be on the lookout Monday night for the never-before-seen tau Herculids meteor shower, though they are not sure it will even happen.

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Astronomers are cautiously predicting a dazzling display of tau Herculids, which has the potential of producing up to 1,000 slow-moving shooting stars per hour.

Astronomers describe the meteor shower as an “all or nothing event,” according to Bill Cooke, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Cooke says that if the fragments from the source of the meteor shower —comet “SW3″ — were ejected at high speed, a meteor shower should be visible in North America. If the fragments from the comet have slower ejection speeds, none of it will make it to the Earth’s atmosphere.

On a positive note, a new moon should make conditions ideal to watch the sky show. Peak times for the meteor shower will be 1 a.m. on the East Coast and around 10 p.m. on the West Coast.

>>Check tonight’s forecast

As with all meteor showers, viewing is best when there are clear skies and you’re far from the bright lights of the city.

Read more about the comet that is producing the sky show here.