The long-lasting North Taurid meteor shower may reach its annual peak from around late evening on November 11, 2019, until the wee morning hours on November 12. Unlike some meteor showers, though, the North Taurids don’t exhibit a sharp peak, so the meteor rates may remain fairly steady throughout the coming week. Now here’s the bad news. The North Taurids are peaking this under the glaring light of the full moon, which comes on November 12.
In a dark sky, you might see as many as five meteors per hour. In a moonlit sky … we can’t estimate precisely, but you might see a few.
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. The year, as the shower peaks in 2019, moon will be up high and shining mightily around the midnight hour, bleaching out these meteors. A high percentage of Taurid meteors do tend to be fireballs, or especially bright meteors. Let’s hope a few Taurid fireballs can overcome the moonlight!
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.
On a moonless night, 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 its highest point for the night around 12:30 a.m. local time. That’s why the meteors are best around then.
Taurus descends westward throughout the morning hours, and is found over the western horizon by daybreak.
Bottom line: The year 2019 finds the slow-moving North Taurid meteors having to compete with moonlight, as this shower reaches its peak on the night of November 11-12.
Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky's popular Tonight pages since 2004. He's a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.