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North Taurid meteors best after the moon sets this weekend

2013-november-north-taurid-radiant-night-sky-chart

Tonight for November 8, 2013

A note on the feature chart above: The North Taurid meteors derive their name from the constellation Taurus the Bull. If you trace the paths of the Taurid meteors backward, you’ll see they appear to radiate from near the famous Pleiades star cluster of this constellation on the peak nights of the North Taurid meteor shower.

Although the North Taurid meteor shower is not expected to peak until early next week, the meteor rates may be comparable throughout the weekend. In a dark sky, you might see 5 to 10 meteors per hour. This shower favors the Northern Hemisphere, but no matter where you live worldwide, the best viewing hours are usually in the wee hours just after midnight.

November 2013 guide to the five visible planets

Tonight's waxing crescent moon - November 8, 2013 - as seen by Marina Daniels Andersson in Sweden.  Thank you, Marina!

Tonight’s waxing crescent moon – November 8, 2013 – as seen by Marina Daniels Andersson in Sweden. Thank you, Marina! Look here for a custom sunrise/sunset calendar that’ll let you learn the time of moonset tonight in your location.

The waxing moon, which stays out throughout the evening hours for the next few days, sets at about the time that the Taurid meteor shower starts to produce the greatest number of meteors for the night. Once again – no matter where you live worldwide – you’re most likely to see the most North Taurid meteors in the wee hours just after midnight. The North Taurids are generally a very modest shower, offering perhaps a handful of meteors per hour on a dark, moonless night. But even one bright meteor can be a treat, especially since a good percentage of the Taurid meteors tend to produce fireballs!

This weekend, the moon will set – or at least be close to setting – as this shower reaches full stride shortly after local midnight. But the moon sets about one hour later with each passing night, providing fewer hours of darkness for enjoying the Taurid shower. The expected peak will fall on the night of November 11-12 (late evening on Monday, November 11, until the wee morning hours on Tuesday, November 12). But by then, a larger and brighter waxing gibbous moon won’t set until a few hours after midnight. If you’re blessed with clear nights this weekend, take advantage of them because you’ll have more moon-free viewing time than early next week!

Setting time of the moon in your sky

One of 32 constellation cards in Urania’s Mirror (View of the Heavens), via ianridpath.com.

The North Taurid meteors derive their name from the constellation Taurus the Bull. If you trace the paths of the Taurid meteors backward, you’ll see they appear to radiate from near the famous Pleiades star cluster of this constellation on the peak nights of the North Taurid meteor shower. You don’t have to find Taurus, though, to watch the North Taurid meteors. These slow-moving meteors can light up any part of the starry heavens, streaking through a wide variety of constellations. So just lie back comfortably and gaze in all parts of the sky, while waiting for the Taurid meteors.

Easily locate stars and constellations during any day and time with EarthSky’s Planisphere.

Taurid meteor seen by EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison in Conway, North Carolina on November 8, 2012. See the V-shaped face of the Bull in Taurus, and the very bright planet Jupiter nearby? Thank you, Ken! Click here to expand image.

After moonset, a dark sky highlights the Bull – the radiant point for the North Taurid meteors – in all his starlit majesty. Taurus contains many noticeable stars – plus two star clusters – and is pretty easy to spot. The Bull appears over the eastern horizon by around 8 p.m. and is highest up in the sky around 1 a.m. The Bull’s face consists of a V-shaped star cluster called the Hyades cluster. The Bull’s fiery red eye – the star Aldebaran – is not part of the Hyades. This ruddy star lies in the same direction, though at only about half the distance to the Hyades cluster. The star Elnath marks the tip of the Bull’s northern horn. And the Pleiades star cluster marks the Bull’s shoulder.

The radiant point of this shower soars to his highest point for the night around 12:30 a.m. local time That’s why the meteors are best around then. Meteor showers are prduce the most meteors for the night when their radiant point is highest in the sky.

Taurus descends westward throughout the morning hours, and is found over the western horizon by daybreak. Unlike some meteor showers, the North Taurids don’t exhibit a sharp peak, so the meteor rates may remain fairly steady for the next several days.

Meteor flies by constellation Orion. At top left of photo, planet Jupiter and star Aldebaran highlight constellation Taurus, near the radiant point of this weekend's meteor shower.  EarthSky Facebook friend Allen Lefever captured this meteor in November 2012.  Thanks, Allen!

Meteor flies by constellation Orion. At top left of photo, planet Jupiter and star Aldebaran highlight constellation Taurus, near the radiant point of this weekend’s meteor shower. EarthSky Facebook friend Allen Lefever captured this meteor in November 2012. Thanks, Allen!

Bottom line: 2013 presents a fairly good year for the slow-moving North Taurid meteors, which reach their peak on the night of November 11-12. They could exhibit as many as 10 meteors per hour during the few hours after local midnight.