Shooting stars and fireballs: November means time for Taurid meteor shower
Fall is a wonderful time for meteor showers. There are several ongoing now through the end of the year. In fact, some of these showers overlap. If you happen to see any bright fireballs over the next few weeks, it could be from the Taurids, sometimes known as “Halloween fireballs.”
This meteor shower debris field is so wide, it comes in two waves, the Northern and Southern Taurids. The first wave peaks around this upcoming weekend. The debris field from Comet Encke is really spread out and is quite large, so it takes a while to move through it. The Southern Taurids peak around Nov. 5-6. They may not be the most active in terms of the total number of meteors but can be quite beautiful because of their larger size and slower motion.
The Northern Taurids peak the following weekend on Nov 11-12. They also have a seven-year periodicity to them. Last year was one of the good years. The only issue could be the moon, which may get in the way of some viewing for the Northern stream Taurids when the moon is nearly half full.
These meteors are larger and survive the trip longer through the Earth’s atmosphere. They travel at a slow 17 miles per second, while the faster Perseids travel 37 miles per second. The best time to start looking for them is now when both showers overlap. They do last into early December. If you happen to miss these, it’s not a problem. The Leonids make an appearance by mid-month and the Geminids come along in December.
To best view the showers, try to go out late. The radiant point is the constellation Tauris, which will be high in the southern sky after midnight. Look southeast to start and try to find Orion. That constellation is usually easiest to find, even in our skies. Taurus is the bull and is northeast of Orion. The bright star that makes the bull’s eye is Aldebaran. You don’t have to stare directly at Taurus, but just look, you’ll never know where you’ll see one. Dress warmly, bring blankets and chairs in order to stay warm and comfortable. Give yourself about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust and just have fun!