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The Taurids Meteor Shower-November 11-12
What is a Meteor Shower?
A meteor shower or a shooting star event, as they are also known, is a space event that occurs when the earth´s orbit around the sun crosses the path of the leftovers of a periodic comet. This material was left when a comet entered the solar system on its orbit around the sun. When the comet got sufficiently close to the sun, the sun´s radiation sublimated the ice and produced a coma and a long tail composed of ice, dust and rocks.
As the comet continues its path into and out of the solar system, this debris is spread out along the path of the comet. The earth, on its orbit around the sun, may encounter the debris left by comets on any given month of the year; therefore, there are several meteor showers, the Lyrids, Arietids, Perseids, Orionids and Taurids, to name a few, and they are named after the constellation from which they seem to radiate.
The fireballs get their name when the bits of material enter the earth´s atmosphere and light up in the sky due to friction and speed. The meteors are very tiny and disintegrate before reaching the earth´s surface and in very rare cases, they are able to reach the ground and then they are named meteorites.
The Taurids Meteor Shower
This space event dues its name to the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate and they are associated with the Comet Encke, which has an orbital period of 3.3 years. Because the Taurids are wide spread in space, they occur from the early October through the first week in December and the meteors that can be viewed with the naked eye range from 5-7 on any given night.
Even though, the Taurids has a low rate of shooting stars, the material from it is heavier, with particles the size of pebbles instead of dust grains; therefore, when this material enters the earth´s atmosphere, they can be seen as big fireballs that travel across the night sky.
Visible in the Northern Hemisphere
Although, the Taurids meteor shower has different peak view times for each hemisphere, the North Taurids will peak on November 11-12. The Taurids is an annual event, meaning it occurs year after year on the same dates mentioned here and the radiant point in the direction of Taurus can be located using Orion´s belt in the night sky as a point of reference. This is a 2017 event, but one can expect to observe the meteors again in 2018 and subsequent years.
Taurids-Remnants of Comet Encke
This comet completes an orbit around the sun every 3.3 years, making it one of the shortest orbits of any bright comet. This, as any other comet, left material after having entered the solar system and approached the sun enough to cause its ice to sublimate; the material is spread out as a coma, several times the earth´s diameter and a long tail that may stretch one astronomical unit or the distance that separates the earth from the sun. The material of dust, ice and grains remains in the path of the comet and the meteor shower occurs when the earth´s orbit around the sun encounters this material in space.
The Taurids´radiant point is in the direction of the constellation Taurus the Bull. Typically, Taurids are seen at a rate of about 5-7 taurids/h., displacing in the sky at a speed of 65000 miles/h. The biggest meteors, the size of pebbles, can be lighted up so bright as the moon leaving behind long trails of smoke. Due to the gravitational pull of bodies, such as planets, the Taurids have extended in space making it necessary to have distinct sectors labeled the Northern and southern Taurids.
Northern and Southern Taurids
The leftovers of Comet Encke have spread out due to the gravitational pull of planets, especially the gas giant Jupiter. Due to this wide range of material extended out in space, the earth takes longer to travel through it and the meteors can be observed roaming the sky for a longer time period. The southern Taurids become active from September through November and the Northern Taurids from October through December.
Both meteor showers can be viewed worldwide
On any given night, anyone looking to observe fireballs in the sky may point their eyes into the night sky hoping to see one Taurids and if they are lucky, they could even see a Halloween fireball named so due that they occur on Halloween´s eve. Even though, this shower does not produce too many shooting stars per hour, it may produce a very bright one from time to time, making the time spent outdoors worth the while.
Best Time to Observe the Northern Taurids
Although the Taurids are observable from October to December, it only allows to view about five/hour and the moonlight can hinder the ability to have a clear view of them. The most suitable time to observe them is during the midnight time and during the darkest hours. The time before dawn offers the best opportunity to see them. For a better view, it´s best to find a place away from the city´s light pollution and on the clearest night possible. A moonless night it´s also a good time to spot meteors and November 11 and 12 will be the best days to catch a glimpse of shooting stars, as on these days the moon will be almost reaching its new moon phase, making it possible to see clearly objects in the night sky.
Your knowledge of Meteor Showers
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How to Locate the Taurids in the Sky
First, try to locate the constellation Orion, which is one of the most prominent in the sky. From Orion, find the three stars that give shape to Orion’s belt. From the picture, you can see that Orions´belt points to Taurus and a further above to the Pleiades- a star cluster. A little above Taurus is where the Taurids radiant is located. The shooting stars are visible all over the dark sky and gazing just into the radiant may prevent you from watching them and remember that meteors only light up when entering the earth’s atmosphere; therefore, your gaze should cover a wide amplitude of the sky.
When to Observe the Taurids
The Taurids can be observed in both hemispheres. The southern Taurids from about the first week of September to the third week of November and the northern Taurids from the third week of October to the last week of November. Usually, the meteors cross the night sky at a rate of five to seven/h and at a speed of about 65000 miles/h. Although this shower has a low rate of shooting stars, it can generate very bright ones due that the particles that it shoots are the size of pebbles as opposed to just dust and grains with which other showers are composed.