A mere two weeks after the Orionids graced us with their glimmering presence, star gazers can look forward to yet another meteor shower. November is usually the time of the year when we can witness the peak of the Taurids — one of the most long-lasting meteor showers of the year.
The Taurid meteor shower is active for several months, from late September to early December, which means that there are plenty of opportunities to spot these meteors shoot across the sky.
The downside is that, since the Taurids are so spread out and are generally diffuse, this meteor shower tends to be a lot less prolific than others — typically yielding only a handful of visible meteors per hour.
This year, the Taurids are expected to rain down at a rate of about five meteors per hour. By comparison, the Orionid meteor shower — which in 2018 was announced to be more modest than in previous years — produced up to 25 meteors per hour, as reported by the Inquisitr.
While the celestial display put on by the Taurids can be deemed a little scanty, their appearance on the night sky is by no means a humble one. This is because the Taurid meteor shower is famous for setting the sky ablaze with eye-catching fireballs — exceptionally bright meteors that pop up in a high percentage during the Taurids.
— WWL-TV (@WWLTV) November 3, 2018
Another advantage of the 2018 Taurid meteor shower is that, unlike the Orionids, the shooting stars will not be washed out by the glare of the moon. This should provide quite a few memorable sightings of the splendid Taurids — especially is you venture farther away from city lights to enjoy the show.
The interesting thing about the Taurid meteor shower is that it is divided into two separate branches, known as the South Taurids and the North Taurids. According to EarthSky, the cause of this peculiar phenomenon has to do with planet Jupiter interfering with the long stream of the Taurids.
The South Taurids light up the sky in the Southern Hemisphere and last from September 25 to November 25. Meanwhile, the North Taurids can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere starting on October 12 and up until December 2, EarthSky notes in a separate report.
This means that sky watchers will have a different viewing time of the peaking Taurids depending on their location on the globe, shows Space.
While the peak of the Taurid meteor shower doesn’t have a well-defined date — with different sources pointing to different days on the fall calendar — one of the predicted dates for the Taurid peak falls this weekend.
Taurid fireballs this weekend? "Although a modest shower, perhaps offering 5 meteors per hour, the Taurid shower is known for producing some dramatic fireballs." via @earthskyscience
— Meteor Crater (@MeteorCraterAZ) November 3, 2018
The Taurids will streak in the night sky on November 4, lasting until the dawn. The date marks the peak of the South Taurids — but the shooting stars are usually enriched by their twin meteor shower, which “always adds a few more meteors to the mix during the South Taurids’ peak night,” notes EarthSky.
“Peak viewing for a few hours, centered around 1 a.m. local time on November 5. But the South and North meteors continue to rain down throughout the following week, with no to little interference from moonlight!”
Next weekend, it’s the North Taurids’ turn to shine in the sky. This second branch of the Taurid meteor shower peaks on the night of November 11 and will keep the show rolling until dawn.
HOW COOL, HUH!? ✨✨✨
"They're flying right now, and reach peak activity Nov…. https://t.co/j39Jzed9dC
— River Bluff Apts (@RiverBluffApts) November 3, 2018
The Taurids are named after the Taurus constellation (“The Bull”), the point in the sky from where they seem to originate. However, the true source of the meteor shower is Comet 2P/Encke — a short-term periodic comet that swings around the sun once every 3.3 years.
As the comet circles the sun, it leaves behind a long trail of meteoroids — tiny bits of celestial debris that come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere each time our planet crosses paths with the comet’s trajectory. Upon hitting the atmosphere, the meteoroids light up in a fiery explosion, streaking down the sky as shooting stars.