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Taurid Fireball and Aurora 11.03.15 0129hrs PST

Taurid Fireball and Aurora via Flickr

I’ll try this weekend in Paradelle to see the North Taurid meteors. They are not the best known of meteor showers, but they are long-lasting showers. They have a sister shower, the South Taurids, and between the two they run from late October into November.

Tonight is the nominal peak of the North Taurids and it should be strongest in the hours around midnight local time.

But this neighborhood is not optimal for viewing – too much light pollution from cities, and tonight the waning crescent moon in the sky from midnight on won’t help.

But as with many celestial events – Full Moons at noon, distant planets, distant stars, the Milky Way – even if I can’t see it, I find comfort in knowing where to look and that it is out there.

The North Taurid meteors’ radiant point (origin) is in the constellation Taurus the Bull. It is near the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, in Taurus.  But you don’t need a star chart to see the meteors as they appear all over the sky. The Taurids are known for having some very bright fireballs. A fireball is another term for a very bright meteor, generally brighter than magnitude -4, which is about the same magnitude of the planet Venus as seen in the morning or evening sky. That’s quite bright and very visible.

Taurus rises over the northeast horizon around 7 to 8 p.m. at mid-northern latitudes and a few hours later for the Southern Hemisphere.  Give them a look.

 

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taurid poland

Because of their occurrence in late October and early November, the Taurid meteor showers have gained the popular name of “Halloween fireballs.”

The Taurids are an annual meteor shower associated with the comet Encke. They are named after their radiant point in the constellation Taurus, where they are seen to come from in the sky.  Encke and the Taurids are believed to be remnants of a much larger comet, which has disintegrated over the past 20,000 to 30,000 years, breaking into several pieces.

They are rather slow-moving (from our perspective) and so often make a good show. They usually peak from November 5-12.

According to earthsky.org, they are not known for having a great number of meteors, but  “a high percentage of fireballs, or exceptionally bright meteors.”

The South Taurids should produce their greatest number of meteors – and hence their greatest number of fireballs – between midnight and dawn on November 5, 2015. Try watching on the morning of November 4.

Higher rates of Taurid fireballs seem to occur every 7 years and the last big display was in 2008, so 2015 should be a good year for viewing.

You may have seen some video on the news over the past Halloween weekend of some fireballs seen over Poland. The photos at top are from there and you can see the video here.

If you want to check what to look for in the sky on any day,  check out earthsky.org/tonight/

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Hands off Hello Not all labyrinths are traps Happy to be inside but already missing summer outdoors.  The plant feels the same way. There’s something in the first cold nights when autumn teases winter that seem to require a fire. Still drinking morning tea in the afternoon.  #teaetiquette

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