The Sky Tonight Update: 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 night of November 4.

The Taurids meteor shower is special in its own right, as this show is known for occasionally producing fireballs.  A typical meteor is produced when a piece of space dust, perhaps the size of a lentil or a coffee grain burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, and it zips across the sky so quickly it is literally gone in the blink of an eye. Fireballs, on the other hand, are produced when larger objects, between the size of a peanut and a grape, or even larger plunge through the atmosphere. 

Fireballs travel much more slowly than normal meteors, appearing to almost skip across the sky, often flaring several times before fading away.

This year the nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors. But if you are patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. 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.

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