March 23, 2023
Northern Taurida fireballs are visible throughout November

Northern Taurida fireballs are visible throughout November

The Taurid ‘swarm’ continues to be strong this month, with bright meteors known as fireballs visible around the world in the night sky.

The Southern Taurides peaked last week, with fireball sightings lasting throughout the first week of November, but it’s not over yet. The Taurid meteor shower consists of two streams, and the Northern Taurids are forecast to peak on Saturday, according to EarthSky.

“The Taurids peak at maybe five meteors an hour, but there’s always a chance that one of those five is a fireball, which is brighter than any star or planet in the sky,” said Robert Lunsford, the fireball show coordinator. for the American Meteor Society. “Only the sun and the moon are brighter than regular fireballs, so it’s quite spectacular when you see one.”

The Southern Taurides run from approximately September 23rd to November 12th, while the Northern Taurids are active from approximately October 13th to December 2nd. When the two showers are active at the same time, there can be an increase in fireballs, especially during a Taurid swarm year, such as this.

The rains reach their respective peaks at points where the Earth is closest to the center of each current. The cluster occurs when Jupiter is close enough to pull in the currents with its gravity, causing the debris to condense and spike into fireballs. The last time this happened was in 2015 and before that in 2008, creating a seven-year repeat that the meteor society predicted would happen again in 2022.

“It’s a very interesting shower that produces a lot of fireballs,” said Mike Hankey, director of operations for the American Meteor Society and creator of the fireball tracking program. “It’s always been known for fireballs, but we can definitely see an uptick in the data every day this month. There’s been a lot of fireballs already.”

Origin of the Taurides

The Taurides radiate from the direction of the Taurus constellation, although it’s best not to look in this area, as meteor trails last for the shortest time then. The fireballs will be visible across the sky and won’t even be bothered by the dimming of the bright full moon on November 8, as they can outshine most elements of the night sky.

The southern and northern Taurides both come from components of Comet Encke, which has the shortest orbit around the sun of any large comet in our solar system at just over three years. Each time Encke passes Earth in its orbit, it leaves a new trail of debris, making it a major producer of meteoroids. The stem is so large that it takes our planet several weeks to pass through the meteor shower.

Comet Enke will return in October 2023.

Seeing a fireball

Taurida meteors tend to move slowly but are sometimes very bright, depending on their size. Meteors larger than one meter (3.3 feet) tend to move slower and shine brighter, according to NASA. Fireballs are seen moving across the sky for a few seconds, while most meteors are only visible for a millisecond. Fireballs are often described as colorful, either red, orange, or yellow.

“You won’t always see fireballs, but there are meteors every night of the year,” Lunsford said. “It’s something you can do inexpensively. You don’t even need a telescope, just your eyes are perfect.”

Other space events this year

There are three more meteor showers to see in the rest of 2022, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide. Here are the rains and their predicted peaks:

• November 18: Leonidas

• December 14: Gemini

• December 22: Ursides

There’s one more full moon on The Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar for 2022: the cold moon on December 7.

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