0 In Astronomy/ Meteor Shower


November doesn’t have one or two but THREE meteor showers! So it is easier for me to just group them all into one mega post of meteor euphoria each year! Get excited. It is meteor shower time and not just any meteor shower but two renown for their FIREBALLS!

First Finishing Their Peak Tonight The South Taurids


Taurid fireball by Mike Lewinski

This meteor shower lasts from September 20th to November 25th. Although it is actually very slow with less than 10 meteors per hour even at its peak, it is famous for having some of the brightest meteors called fireballs. Quality over quantity, right?

WHEN is it?
The constellation is above the horizon basically all of the night but you will probably want to catch it while it is closer to its highest point around midnight. The Moon sets just before 11 so you are safe to head out an hour early too.

WHERE should you look?
If you can tell by the name, the constellation these are close to is Taurus. They are actually just above the foot of the Bull, the star Tau. However, if you aren’t that familiar with the sky, don’t worry; you can use an app (like the one I suggested).phone app guide Pick a star in the constellation and use the app to figure out where the constellation is. You can even figure out when it rises and sets. If you use the app I do, make sure you turn on sky object trajectories and use that as a guide for where the star (or constellation) will be and at what time. It should be on automatically, but in case it is not, it is the button on the upper right of the settings (as shown on the right). Also remember that it is always a good idea not to stare at the exact same constellation all night. Let your eyes wander. It isn’t an exact science of where you will see the meteor. Sometimes it is helpful to keep your eyes active by looking somewhere else and coming back.

WHAT are the meteors made of?
This meteor shower is made of the bits of debris left behind by some space object burning up in the atmosphere. The bright burning meteors that you see coming down are the bits of debris left by Comet 2P Encke which was thought to be a much larger comet that had disintegrated over the past 20,000 to 30,000 years. Asteroid 2004 TG 10 also sometimes gets attributed for this beautiful firework show. This comet might actually be the parent to Asteroid 2004 TG10. The comet orbits every 3.3 years making it the shortest period of the “bright” comets.

Second Peaking on November 11th and 12th, The North Taurids 


The Taurids continue by Mike Lewinski

These meteors are very similar to the South Taurids in that they don’t have a sizable peak but when you see a meteor it will be an impressive fireball!

WHEN is it?
So you can see it about the same time as the South Taurids, around midnight when Taurus is highest in the sky. However, it is a full moon on the 14th so it might be best to look for these a little after midnight when the Moon is lower in the sky.

WHERE should you look?
Same place as the South Taurids! You will already know where you need to look from watching just a few days before.

WHAT are the meteors made of?
These meteors are also made from the debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke.

Third Peaking on November 16th and 17th, The Leonids


Paint Mines Leonids by David Kingham

Although this meteor shower has a past history of having meteor shower storms (over 1,000 meteors per hour), this year is supposed to just be 10 or 15 meteors per hour. WAH WAH… but there is still a fairly decent shot of your catching some meteors as it is still a very popular shower to watch.

WHEN is it?
So the constellation isn’t above the horizon till about 1ish. This means it is going to be one of the early morning showers to catch.

WHERE should you look?
These meteors follow their name and come out of the constellation Leo. They tend to radiate out of the Lion’s head. If you are not that familiar with the night sky to find Leo, you can check out the suggestion I offer earlier in the South Taurids section. Don’t be afraid to look around at night though; the goal isn’t to confine your eyes to one part of the night sky.

WHAT are the meteors made of?
These meteors are made of the debris left by comet Tempel-Tuttle. It orbits about the sun every 33 years. This means it has a fresh pass about every 33 years or so. I say this because it is very important when figuring out when those “storms” occur. They happen after a fresh pass so they follow a 33 year pattern. However, all passes aren’t equal and it isn’t guaranteed you will have a storm after it does pass. The last storm was in 1966 which had over ten of thousand meteors per hour. Other recorded storms were 1833, 1866, and 1867. Let’s hope 2032 has a treat in store for us!

Slooh is hosting a live stream for the Leonid Meteor Shower so if you are having bad weather be sure to check that out at 8:00 pm EST November 17th (00:00 18/11 GMT).

Happy Observing!

NEXT ON THE LINEUP: Geminids December 13th and 14th… If you are in a warm enough spot to view these, they rival the Perseids for being the best meteor shower of the year!

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