Tonight … meteor forecasters are calling for November 11-12 to be the peak night of the North Taurid meteor shower. On a moonless night, this shower is usually best viewed for several hours, centered around midnight or 1 a.m. However, in 2014, it might be more advantageous to watch at evening, or before the bright waning gibbous moon rises into your sky. This is a somewhat rambling – and sparse – shower, offering perhaps five meteors per hour. Yet these slow-moving meteors are known for producing fireballs – exceptionally bright meteors – that may well overcome tonight’s moonlight glare.
You can also try observing this shower in the dark hours before moonrise! Want to know the time of moonrise in your location? Try this custom sunrise-sunset calendar, and be sure to check the box for moonrise-moonset times.
The meteors tend to be few and far between in the early evening hours, but if you’re lucky, you might catch an earthgrazer meteor – a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky. Worth a try!
The photo at the top of this post, by the way, is a Taurid fireball captured on November 12, 2012, by our friend Mike Lewinsky.
The North Taurid meteors are named for the constellation Taurus the Bull because the meteors appear to radiate from this part of the starry sky. In fact, the radiant for this shower is not far from the famous Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, in Taurus. Taurus rises over the northeast horizon around 7 to 8 p.m. at mid-northern latitudes. At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Taurus rises a few hours later.
Taurus climbs upward as evening deepens into late night, and soars highest for the night shortly after midnight. The higher that Taurus appears in your sky, the more meteors that you’re likely to see (on a moonless night). Because Taurus is a northern constellation, it climbs higher in the Northern Hemisphere sky than for our cousins in the Southern Hemisphere.
You don’t need to find the constellation Taurus to enjoy the North Taurid meteor shower. But you do need to find a dark, open sky and to be mindful of the rising time of the moon. Be sure to take along a reclining lawn chair for comfort.
Bottom line: Meteor forecasters are calling for November 11-12 to be the peak night of the North Taurid meteor. However, in 2014, it may be more advantageous to watch in the evening, or before the bright waning gibbous moon rises into your sky. Or watch for bright meteors scooting along in the moonlight.