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South Taurid meteors fly in dark skies in early November

South Taurid meteors fly in dark skies in early November. Read more

Tonight for November 4, 2013

Feature chart above: If you trace the South Taurid meteors backward, they all appear to radiate from the constellation Taurus the Bull. But you don’t have to identify Taurus to watch the South Taurid shower.

Look for the thin waxing crescent moon and the dazzling planet Venus in your southwestern sky shortly after sunset.

Look for the thin waxing crescent moon and the dazzling planet Venus in your southwestern sky shortly after sunset.

The planet Jupiter and the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux, rise around mid-evening.

The planet Jupiter and the Gemini stars, Castor and Pollux, rise above the horizon somewhere around 9 to 10 p.m. local time at mid-northern latitudes.

The constellation Leo the Lion and the red planet Mars rise over the eastern horizon around 1 to 2 a.m. at mid-northern latitudes.

The constellation Leo the Lion and the red planet Mars rise over the eastern horizon in the wee hours between midnight and dawn.

However, the first thing you want to do after sunset on November 4, 2013, is to catch the waxing crescent moon and the planet Venus low in the west-southwest sky. The moon sets first and Venus sets next, but both are long gone by the time that Taurus fully climbs over the eastern horizon at mid-evening.

Setting time of the sun, moon and Venus in your sky

The South Taurid meteor shower is expected to be at its best from late evening on Monday, November 4, till dawn on Tuesday, November 5. This shower greatly favors the Northern Hemisphere, but the best viewing from anywhere worldwide is usually during the wee hours just after midnight. Best yet, there will be no moonlight to ruin the South Taurid display in early November 2013!

The other Taurid shower – the North Taurids – should add a few more meteors to the mix. The forecast calls for the North Taurid shower to be raining down the most meteors a week or so after the South Taurid peak, on the night of November 11/12. But the moon will exhibit a bright waxing gibbous phase then, adding a lot of light to the sky.

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. Although a modest shower, the Taurids can surprise you with a flamboyant fireball or two!

The radiant points for these two November meteor showers – the South Taurids and North Taurids – are both in the constellation Taurus the Bull. If you trace the paths of shower meteors backward, you’ll find the meteors appear to radiate from a distinct point in the starry sky. 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.

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 rule of thumb, 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.

The three stars of Orion

Click here for a larger chart.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2013

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

Bottom line: Watch the South Taurid meteor shower show its stuff in early November 2013. Because the Taurids are known for putting out bright fireballs, you may see one or two on a dark November night.