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South Taurid meteors fly in moonlit skies in early November

South Taurid meteors in moonlit skies in early November Read more

Tonight for November 4, 2014

Tonight … South Taurid meteors will be flying, but the moon will drown all but the brightest from view. The good news is that, although a modest shower, the Taurids can surprise you with a flamboyant fireball or two! Those fireballs should be visible, even in bright moonlight. In 2014, the peak of the South Taurid meteor shower is expected to fall in the coming mornings, within a day or so of the November 2014 full moon. Talk about bad timing. If you’re game, give this meteor shower a try anyway, between midnight and dawn on November 5 and 6. On a moonless night, you can see about 5-10 South Taurid meteors per hour. On the next two mornings, with the bright moon, it’s anyone’s guess how many meteors (if any) you’ll see. Still, even one fireball streaking along in a moonlit sky can be a lot of fun.

The other Taurid shower – the North Taurids – should add a few more meteors to the mix on the mornings of November 5 and 6. The forecast calls for the North Taurid shower to be raining down the most meteors on the night of November 11-12. The moonlight will be somewhat less intense then, though it’ll still be a rather bright waning gibbous moon lighting up the night of November 11-12.

As a general rule, the Taurid showers do not exhibit strong peaks. The two Taurid showers tend to overlap and to plateau in activity during the first few weeks in November. On any given night, these rather slow-moving meteors produce the greatest numbers in the few hours after midnight, perhaps up to 10 meteors per hour on a moonless night.

If you trace the South Taurid meteors backward, they all appear to radiate from the constellation Taurus the Bull. As always, you don’t have to identify a meteor shower’s radiant point to watch the meteor shower. Just lie back comfortably and look up.

In fact, the radiant points for both early November meteor showers – the South Taurids and North Taurids – are in the constellation Taurus. As can be expected, the radiant point for the South Taurids is found in southern Taurus, while that of the North Taurids is found in northern Taurus.

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View larger South Taurid meteor. Note the Pleiades star cluster above the meteor, and the bright star Aldebaran roughly midway between the Pleiades and the meteor. Image credit: Rocy Raybell

View larger South Taurid meteor. Note the Pleiades star cluster above the meteor, and the bright star Aldebaran roughly midway between the Pleiades and the meteor. Image via Flickr user Rocy Raybell

View larger. | The three stars of Orion always point to Aldebaran, the fiery eye of the Bull in the constellation Taurus.

Taurus the Bull – the Taurid showers’ radiant point – climbs upward during the evening hours and reaches its highest point in the sky after midnight. As a general rule, the higher that Taurus appears in your sky, the more Taurid meteors that are likely to fly.

Taurus itself is full of interesting things to see such as the Pleiades star cluster, the V-shaped Hyades cluster with bright Aldebaran in its midst.

You don’t need to find Taurus to watch the Taurid shower, for these meteors streak all over the sky.

Bottom line: The annual South Taurid meteor shower peaks in early November 2014. Because the Taurids are known for putting out bright fireballs, you might even see one or two in the glare of the almost full moon.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2014

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