Tonight marks the start of the Taurid meteor shower, one of the longest meteor showers of 2023. Although it’s not the most active of the showers, it’s still worth watching because it produces bright, long-lasting meteors known as “fireballs.”

The meteors come from two comet streams: the southern meteors and the northern meteors. The first stream – the Southern Taurids – begins this weekend, and we also have the added bonus of seeing increasing numbers of scattered meteors as well, as we head into fall.

But why are there two Taurid meteor shower streams? When does it peak? And will you really be able to see a fireball?

Why not kick back and make the most of the long nights, by learning to spot some of the most famous constellations with our astronomy for beginners guide? Or you can brush up on your moon photography skills with Pete Lawrence’s expert guide on how to take great photos of the moon. For a complete summary of this year’s meteor showers, we have all the key dates listed in our meteor shower calendar.

When will the thurid meteor shower be in 2023?

the The southern Taurid meteor shower will begin on Sunday, September 10. It peaks from October 10 to 11 and continues until November 20, 2023.

The northern meteor shower will begin on October 20, 2023, peak on November 12-13, and continue until December 10.

Where are you looking

Both southern and northern Taurus appear to radiate from the constellation Taurus. The southern revolutions radiate from slightly below, near the southern border, and are most active around mid-October, while the northern revolutions radiate from a point in the Taurus farther to the north, and are most active in November.

Taurus is located directly above Orion, which recently returned to our skies after its summer hibernation.

If you’re having trouble finding this point in the night sky, using an app might help (check out our best astronomy apps to get started).

Although the radiant is where meteors appear, they can be seen streaking across the sky from other directions. Try to capture as much of the sky in your view as possible, and you may have a chance to catch one of these rare late-summer objects.

What is the best time to see meteor showers?

The best time to go Taurus hunting is when Taurus is high in the sky, and after midnight when the sky is dark (and cloud-free). Meteors are faint, so the days surrounding the new moon are better than those when the already faint meteors are overshadowed by annoying light.

However, since it’s scattered showers, it’s a good idea to go out with some other goals in mind (Jupiter is a good target as we head toward opposition in November).

The Taurus meteors are visible any time Taurus is above the horizon during September, October, and November. Right now (September 10), Taurus begins to appear on the horizon around 10 p.m., with the gentle pancake representing the Pleiades in the foreground. It has risen fully by midnight, although the binary star Zeta Tauri (which forms the tip of the bull’s horns) will remain low on the horizon at that point.

South Stream activity peaks October 10-11, just before the new moon, so conditions this year are favourable.

How many meteors will I be able to see?

The maximum southern Taurid meteor shower rate is 5 or 6 meteors per hour (realistically, less than that).

Although the Taurids are slow (traveling at about 27 km/s) and bright, they are also relatively sparse – especially when compared to something like the Lyrids in April or the Perseids in August.

Will I be able to see the fireball?

It is somewhat interesting that Taurids have the ability to make fireballs. Most meteorites are caused by dust, or other small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere, while fireballs are caused by larger fragments of gravel.

Although rates are low in the southern Taurids, the possibility of seeing a fireball is worth the opportunity to watch the sky — and maybe you’ll get lucky and catch one on your video doorbell.

It is a long shower to boot. We have more than two months of opportunity to spot one of the spectacular fireballs coming from the South Taurid – and then heading up the North Taurid Current just in time for Halloween.

What causes a Taurid meteor shower?

Meteor showers occur when Earth moves through a stream of debris left behind by a comet as it orbits the sun. These meteorites, fragments left behind by a comet, interact with our atmosphere and burn up in the process, producing regular meteor showers every time we move through this stream.

In this case, when you see meteors from the Taurid meteor shower, you are looking at particles from Comet Encke (official designation 2P/Encke). Comet Encke is a short-period comet, taking only 3.3 years to complete its orbit around the Sun. Its celestial journey is very short, and it has the shortest known orbital period of any comet within our solar system.

Relatively speaking, Comet Encke is small; About a third the size of the comet that led to the demise of the dinosaurs. The comet’s nucleus is about 4.8 kilometers (2.98 miles) in diameter, and is thought to have come from a much larger comet, which broke up about 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Why are there two streams in Taurid meteor shower?

There are two streams associated with Comet Encke; Northern supplies and southern supplies. There is also a third precipitation, the Beta Taurids, in June and July, although this is a diurnal precipitation that is best observed by radar and radio echo techniques rather than by good sight.

There are two Taurus streams because comet debris has become so spread out over time – likely due to interference from Jupiter – that the different streams can now be distinguished. It’s a wide area of ​​debris, and there are basically two main cross sections that intersect Earth’s orbit.

Can you see Comet Enki?

Good news, comet watchers: our short friend will return to our skies in a few weeks! However, it will brighten to about 7 degrees (i.e. not very bright) as it approaches perihelion (closest approach to the Sun), so you’ll need (decent) binoculars to see it.

The comet will reach its closest approach to Earth on September 24, and will reach perihelion on October 22. It will reach visual range around September 10, and will travel east-southeast through Gemini, Cancer and Leo before getting lost in the dawn light as it approaches the Sun.

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