The Taurid Meteor Shower is expected to make a dazzling show in the sky over the next few days - here's how to watch it.
Stargazers finding themselves outside on a clear night this week will want to be sure to take a look up at the sky: they just might see a shooting star. According to a report form Science Alert, NASA scientists have predicted that the Taurid meteor shower is about to swarm Earth in a 10-year epic meteor event.
Over the course of the next week and a half, stargazers may be treated to dazzlingly bright fireballs streaking across the sky at night. The last time this type of meteor shower occurred was in 2005, and this time it is expected to create quite a buzz.
The Taurid meteor shower occurs annually, but it only creates a spectacle like the one this week every so often. It usually happens between September and December, as the Earth trails behind the Comet Encke.
As the planet passes through this dust cloud, the occasional rock will drop into the atmosphere and burn up at a speed of roughly 65,000 miles per hour. Stargazers are not particularly excited about the Taurids on a regular basis, as other meteor showers like the Perseids in the spring create much more buzz.
This time around, however, the Taurid meteor shower will be very different. Earth will be traveling through a “swarm” of large particles in the comet’s trail, which can lead to massive fireballs streaking through the night sky. Astronomers calculate that this week is the prime time to go out and see some meteors.
According to Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office, “The annual Taurid meteor shower is going on right now, and we are seeing steady activity in our meteor cameras. Individuals should not be surprised if they see a bright meteor or fireball over the next few nights.”
The Taurid meteor shower appears in two separate streams: the north and the south. They both broke from the comet at different times and follow slightly different orbital paths. This means that meteors will be visible for a full week and a half, with the south stream peaking tonight, Nov. 6, and the north stream peaking between Nov. 11 and 12.
The meteor shower’s visibility will be improved by a waning moon, which will be new on Nov. 11. This will provide ample darkness upon which viewers can see meteorites streaking through the sky.
The shooting stars originate from the Taurus constellation, and looking towards these stars will offer the best view. The north stream can be seen above the constellation, while the south stream can be viewed from the southern section of the constellation.
Scientists believe that debris may not exclusively come from Comet Encke, but also from the breakdown of an even bigger comet. This may explain why some of the fireballs are so darn big and bright. NASA scientists have quelled fears of large space debris smashing into people and property, as most meteorites will break up before they even reach the ground.
NASA still isn’t 100 percent sure if this year will be a swarm year, but the chances are looking good. A press release from NASA describing the meteor shower can be read here.