Set Your Alarm: Prepare For The Taurid Fireballs In The Sky This Week

The South and North Taurid meteor showers aren’t known for their large numbers of meteors, but they do offer a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors. This shower made a huge splash in 2015, when there were many, many reports and photos featuring Taurid fireball sightings. Higher rates of Taurid fireballs appear to happen in seven-year cycles. Grand fireball displays did indeed take place in 2008 and 2015. Watch for Taurid meteors – and possible fireballs – throughout November.

The nominal peak night for the South Taurids was November 5 while that of the North Taurids is about a week later, on November 12. This year, in 2020, the waning gibbous moon will intrude on the South Taurid peak, whereas the rather slender waning crescent moon will be much less of a problem for the North Taurid peak. But you might even see a Taurid or two despite the moon, given the high percentage of fireballs accompanying the Taurids.

Bright streak with very bright head in starry sky above desert landscape.

Taurid fireball on the evening of October 21, 2017 – 10:27 p.m. – from Joanne West at Gold Canyon, Arizona. Eliot Herman in Tucson caught this same meteor.

The prime time viewing hours are from late night until dawn, with the peak viewing coming just after the midnight hour. In general, the South Taurids offer about five meteors per hour at their peak, but the North Taurid shower may add a few more meteors to the mix. How many you’ll see will depend on how far from city lights you are … and how bright the meteors are. If they’re bright enough, they’ll overcome skies beset by light pollution.

Star chart of constellation Taurus with radial arrows from point near one end.

Taurid meteors radiate from the constellation Taurus, but they’ll appear in all parts of the sky.

The Taurid meteor stream consists of an extremely wide roadway of far-flung debris left behind by Comet 2P/Encke. When Earth travels through this belt of comet debris, bits and pieces of Comet 2P/Encke smash into the Earth’s upper atmosphere to vaporize as rather slow-moving Taurid meteors (28 km/17 miles per second).

Apparently, the original Taurid stream has been perturbed by Jupiter into two branches: South and North Taurids.

Fuzzy, bright round ball with long faint tail against star field.

Comet Encke, parent of the Taurid meteor shower.

Bottom line: South and North Taurid meteors – some of them bright fireballs – can be seen through late October and November, each year. So you might catch a fireball if you watch!

Via Earth sky

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed