Taurids Meteor Shower Peaks Nov. 5, 6

Taurids Meteor Shower

The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10.

It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for viewing. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

taurids meteor showerThe Taurids are associated with Comet Encke. As this object orbits the sun, it leaves a trail of comet crumbs in its wake. In some years, when Jupiter’s orbit brings it close to the comet’s trail, the gas giant’s gravity nudges the comet particle stream toward Earth, so more meteors are visible to observers here. Astronomers call this an “outburst.” That isn’t expected to happen this year, but the latest predictions suggest that an outburst will happen in 2019, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com.

Most meteor showers come from tiny fragments that burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, but calculations indicate that Comet Encke’s debris could produce meteors big enough to survive the trip to the ground. These meteorites have not been discovered yet, Cooke said, adding that such a discovery would be a “holy grail of meteorites.” No one knows how big a Taurid meteorite might be, but Cooke said the comet chunks are estimated to weigh a few ounces.

 

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