A Brilliant Meteor Shower Peaks This Week. Here's How to Watch.
Halloween weekend will be a good time to catch a fireball. No, not a cinnamon-flavored shot of whiskey at your neighbor's costume party. We're talking about bright streaks of light in the night sky from the peak of the Taurid Meteor Shower.
The two branches of the Taurid Meteor Shower will dump meteors across the sky the week after Halloween. It's a meteor shower known for producing fireballs, meteors larger and brighter than their less-brilliant siblings. The Taurids are one of the year's longest showers, with activity from October 20 to November 30, per Space.com. Nonetheless, it's a shorter window where things are at their best. The site notes that the best week runs from November 5-12.
There are varying numbers given out about the Taurids. As the two Taurid branches overlap that week, estimates range from a dozen meteors per hour to around five. But what makes them worthwhile viewing is the fireballs. The Taurids will appear bright in the sky, often with a yellow or orange tint. They also move slower than most meteors, which makes for a more beautiful show, even if the shower produces fewer meteors than the year's best events.
How to Watch the Taurid Meteor Shower
There are two branches of the shower, the South Taurids and the North Taurids. Since the shower lasts a long time and doesn't have a hard peak like many meteor showers, there are a number of nights worth stepping out to see the show. Earth Sky cites November 5 as the most active date for the South Taurids (though, there's debate about that) and November 12 as the most active date for the North Taurids.
With no hard peak, the whole range of dates in between has the potential to flash fireballs. However, like so many showers this year, the moon could spoil the party. There will be a new moon on October 28, giving a handful of days after that point with very dark skies that will make be exceptional for meteor viewing conditions. (If you have clear skies.)
That's a little before the peak, but early viewing might not be a bad idea. There's a first-quarter moon the night of November 4, which will set right around midnight, as the radiant inside the constellation Taurus the Bull is hitting its highest point in the sky. That should provide a good opportunity to hunt for fireballs without the light interference of the moon.
As the week wears on, the moon will be getting brighter and set an hour later each night, until the northern branch of the Taurids peaks on November 12, the night of a full moon.
Whenever you go out, step out after midnight when the radiant for both streams is above the horizon. Both radiants are south of the Pleiades star cluster and the constellation Taurus the Bull. You'll also want to get somewhere dark, away from the lights of the city or you won't see much. Then lay back on the ground, and try to keep as much of the sky as possible in-view while you wait for the show to get going. Be sure to bring something to keep you warm, like hot chocolate or a hot toddy.