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Tips for watching North Taurid meteors

The photo at the top of this post is from our friend Eliot Herman in Tucson, Arizona. It’s from the morning of November 10, 2015 – a Taurid fireball as bright as a full moon! Read more about this photo on Flickr.

Tonight and tomorrow night – the nights of November 11 and 12, 2015 – are the predicted peak nights of the North Taurid meteor shower. Lucky for us, the new moon comes today (November 11), guaranteeing moon-free skies these next few midnights. And here’s the even better news. The Taurids – which are divided into two streams, the North and South Taurids – have been awesome this year! We’ve heard reports and seen photos of many bright and amazing Taurid fireballs in 2015. Here are a few tips to help you observe this shower.

Note for Southern Hemisphere stargazers: Everything we’re saying here applies to you, too!

1. Keep your expectations real. The South Taurids peak has already passed. And there’s no sharp peak to North Taurids, so don’t expect a shower in the sense of a shower of rain. You might not see any more than five North Taurids an hour, but you can still add a few South Taurid meteors to that mix. It’s not the number of Taurids that makes this shower amazing this year. Instead …

2. Watch for fireballs! Both the North and South Taurids are known for having a high percentage of fireballs – extra-bright meteors. That’s what you want to watch for this year. To increase your chances of seeing a really bright meteor …

3. Watch in the hours around midnight. That’s when the radiant point, in the constellation Taurus the Bull, will be well above your horizon. That’s true for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, by the way.

4. If you do need to watch in the evening hours, be aware that the meteors tend to be few and far between at that time. However, if you’re lucky, you might catch an earthgrazer meteor, which is a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky. Worth a try!

5. The North Taurid meteors’ radiant point is in the constellation Taurus the Bull. In fact, the radiant for this shower is not far from the famous Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, in Taurus. You don’t need to identify this constellation to see the meteors. They will appear all over the sky. Still, it helps to know when the radiant rises. 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.

6. Yes, you can watch the shower no matter where you are on Earth. The constellation 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. Because Taurus is a northern constellation, it climbs higher in the Northern Hemisphere sky than for our cousins in the Southern Hemisphere.

7. Find a dark place to observe. You don’t need to find the constellation Taurus to enjoy the North Taurid meteor shower. But it does help to find a dark, open sky. Be sure to take along a reclining lawn chair for comfort.

8. Clouded out? Missed it? Nah! This shower will be active for another month or so.

Taurid fireballs photos and videos

It’s time to purchase your 2016 EarthSky moon calendar! Makes a swell gift.

Another cool shot of a Taurid fireball, posted this morning (November 11) at EarthSky Photos on G+ by Bill Allen.  Thanks, Bill!  By all reports, this shower has been amazing in 2015.

Another cool shot of a Taurid fireball, posted this morning (November 11) at EarthSky Photos on G+ by Bill Allen. Thanks, Bill! By all reports, this shower has been amazing in 2015.

The radiant point of November's North Taurid meteor shower.

The radiant point of November’s North Taurid meteor shower is in the constellation Taurus the Bull, near the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters.

The Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters, marks the radiant for the North Taurid meteor shower.  This cluster is part of the constellation Taurus the Bull.  Photo by Dave Dehetre on Flickr.

A close-up of the Pleiades star cluster. See the little dipper-shaped cluster on the chart above? That’s the Pleiades. It’s easy to see in the night sky. Photo by Dave Dehetre on Flickr.

Bottom line: Meteor forecasters are calling for the nights of November 11 and 12 to be the peak nights of the North Taurid meteor. This shower has produced an abundance of fireballs – very bright meteors – in 2015. Watch for them.

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