Above photo: Pleiades star cluster. If you trace the paths of the North Taurid meteors backward, they appear to come from this part of the sky. But it’s a chance alignment. The Pleiades cluster looms over 400 light-years away whereas the N. Taurid meteors burn up in Earth’s atmosphere about 60 miles above the Earth’s surface. Photo credit: David DeHetre
Starting late this Sunday evening – November 10, 2013 – watch for meteors in the North Tarurid shower. Then cap off a night of meteor watching by viewing the planet Mercury in the southeastern sky as the morning darkness gives way to dawn about an hour before sunrise.
At mid-northern latitudes, you can watch for the North Taurid meteors to start streaking the sky around 8 to 9 p.m. However, the meteors will be few and far between at this early hour because the radiant of the meteor shower – the constellation Taurus the Bull – looms low in the east at this time. But it’s possible that this early hour might produce an earthgrazer – a long, bright meteor that travels horizontally across the sky. Earthgrazers are rarely seen but but are most memorable, should you happen to see one.
As the constellation Taurus climbs upward throughout the evening hours, the North Taurid shower will produce more meteors. Regardless of time zone, Taurus reaches its high point for the night shortly after midnight, and it’s usually in the wee hours after midnight that the North Taurids produces the greatest number of meteors. Moreover, the moon will have set – or at least be close to setting – at the Taurids’ finest hour.
In a dark sky, you might see as many as 10 meteors per hour. Between midnight and dawn on Monday, November 11, and Tuesday, November 12 should feature a decent sprinkling of North Taurid meteors. Although forecasters are giving the nod to Tuesday, you may see about the same number of meteors after midnight tonight (Monday, November 11).
You don’t have to locate the constellation Taurus to watch the North Taurid meteors. These meteors fly through the starry sky in many different directions. But if you trace the paths of the North Taurid meteors backward, they appear to radiate from the constellation Taurus the Bull. Simply sprawl out on a reclining lawn chair under a dark, open sky and look upward.
Bottom line: After the constellation Taurus rises in the east this Sunday evening, it’ll stay out all night long. You’ll see Taurus fairly low in the west in the predawn and dawn hours all through November 2013. As the North Taurid meteors succumb to the morning twilight, look for the planet Mercury low in the east-southeast sky.