HEAVENLY OBJECTS COME AND GO FROM OUR SIGHT INTO THE NIGHT SKY, as they fly or orbit the Sun. Whether it’s the Full Moon, a meteor shower or just the best night to see Mars, we’re here to direct your eyes to the sky and appreciate the wonders of space from Earth.
This week we ask you to admire the beauty of the annual Northern Taurid meteor shower, which will peak on the nights of November 11 and 12, with its mesmerizing fireballs.
Meteor showers are actually the broken pieces that fall from comets and asteroids as they whiz across Earth. These rocky bodies are composed of frozen gas, dust and other material, some of which date back to the formation of the Solar System. As these space rocks approach the Sun, the star’s powerful gravitational pull can weaken them, breaking them as they get closer.
The flow of dust forms a kind of train, and the Earth passes through these trains every year as it orbits the Sun. Some of that dust interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates, forming the fiery streaks that we observe in the sky and call rains of meteorites.
Each year, Earth’s orbit traverses the path of a stream of debris left by Comet Encke. The dusty remnants hit Earth’s atmosphere at 65,000 mph and burn, creating a spectacular sight in our night skies: the Northern Taurid meteor shower.
This meteor shower lasts during the months of September, October and November, but increases activity during the last week of October and the first two weeks of November.
This year the shower will peak on the night of November 11th and continue throughout the following night. Meteor shower generally lasts a few hours each night, starting at midnight, according to EarthSky.
While not the most abundant meteor shower, the Northern Taurid rain is known for its fireballs, or extremely bright meteors that streak the night sky. During its peak, the Northern Taurid meteor shower can produce about five fireballs per hour.
The best time to start seeing the Northern Taurid meteor shower is after midnight, when the constellation of Taurus is high in the sky. And they can be seen from anywhere in the world.
If you live in a busy city like New York, it’s best to climb as high as possible to minimize light pollution. You might try to see the Northern Taurids from a balcony or roof.
You also want to limit the light coming from the screens of electronic devices or flashlights and allow your eyes to get used to the darkness for about 30 minutes before looking up.