Taurid meteor shower 2023 tonight: How to spot bright orange balls

Taurid meteor shower 2023 tonight: How to spot bright orange balls

Tonight marks the start of the Taurid meteor shower, one of the longest meteor showers of 2023. Although not the most active shower, it is still worth watching as it produces bright, long-lived stars known as ‘fireballs’.

Taurid meteors come from two streams of comets: the Southern Taurids, and the Northern Taurids. The first stream – the Southern Taurids – begins this weekend, and we also have the added bonus of seeing an increase in the number of unusual meteors, as we enter autumn.

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

Why not chill out and make the most of a long night, learning to spot some of the most iconic stargazers in our beginner’s guide? Or, check out your moon photos with Pete Lawrence’s expert guide on how to take great pictures of the Moon. And for the full cycle of this year’s meteor showers, we have all the major dates listed on our meteor shower calendar.

When is the Taurid meteor shower in 2023?

I The Southern Taurid meteor shower begins on Sunday, September 10, It peaks on October 10-11 and continues until November 20, 2023.

The Northern Taurid shower will begin on October 20, 2023, peak on November 12-13, and last until December 10.

Where are you looking?

Both the South and North Taurids appear to emanate from the constellation Taurus the Bull. The Southern Taurids shine from a little lower, near the southern border and are most active around mid-October, while the Northern Taurids radiate from Taurus to the north, and are most active in November.

Taurus is located north of Orion, which has just returned to the sky from its summer hibernation.

If you’re struggling to find this feature in the night sky, using an app can help (check out our best astronomy apps to get started).

Although the brightness is where shooting stars appear to come from, they can be seen moving across the sky from other directions. Try to capture as much of the sky in your view as possible, and you may have a shot at catching one of these summer gems.

When is the best time to see a meteor shower?

The best time to go Taurid hunting is when Taurus is high in the sky, after midnight when the sky is dark (and cloudless). Meteors are faint, so the days around the new Moon are better than when the light drowns out the already dark meteors.

However, since it’s a small shower, it’s a good idea to go outside and consider other targets (Jupiter is a good target as we head into opposition in November).

Taurid meteors are visible whenever Taurus is overhead in September, October and November. Right now (September 10), Taurus starts peeking over at 10pm, with the cutie-pie Pleiades leading the way. It is fully awake at midnight, although the binary star Zeta Tauri (which forms the tip of the bull’s horns) will still be below this stage.

Southern current activity peaks around October 10-11, just before the New Moon, so this year’s conditions are favorable.

How many meteors will I be able to see?

The maximum rate of the South Taurid meteor shower is only 5 or 6 meters per hour (actually, less).

Although the Taurids are slow (moving around 27km/s) and bright, they are also very rare – especially compared to something like the Lyrids in April or the Perseids in August.

Will I be able to see the fireball?

Instead, the Taurids do, however, have the ability to create fireballs. Most meteors are caused by dust, or other small particles that enter the Earth’s atmosphere, whereas fireballs are caused by large pebble-sized particles.

Although prices for the Southern Taurids are low, the prospect of seeing a fireball is worth a spot of skywatching – you might get lucky and catch one on your video doorbell.

And a long shower to boot; we have just over two months of chance to see one of the spectacular fireballs from the Southern Taurids – then we’re into the Northern Taurid stream in time for Halloween.

What causes the Taurid meteor shower?

Meteor showers occur when the Earth travels through streams of debris left behind by a comet, as it orbits the Sun. These meteoroids, the fragments left behind by the comet, meet our atmosphere and burn up in the process, producing the usual meteor showers every time we travel through this stream.

In this example, when you see meteors from the Taurid meteor shower, you are looking for particles from Comet Encke (official name 2P/Encke). Comet Encke is a short-lived comet, taking just 3.3 years to complete its orbit around the Sun. Its celestial journey is very short, having the shortest known orbital period of any comet within our Solar System.

In relative terms, Comet Encke is small; about one-third the size of the comet that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. It has a core around 4.8km in diameter (2.98 km) and is thought to have come from a very large comet, which broke up 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Why are there two rivers in the area? Taurid meteor shower?

There are two rivers associated with Comet Encke; the Northern Taurids and the Southern Taurids. There is also a third, the Beta Taurids in June and July, although this is a daytime shower that is better seen by radar and radio-echo technology than good old eyes.

There are two streams of the Taurids because the debris from the comet has spread over time – most likely due to the interference of Jupiter – so that the separate streams are now separated. It is a wide area of ​​debris, and there are two main intersecting parts that meet the Earth’s orbit.

Can you see Comet Encke?

Good news, comet watchers: our short-lived friend is returning to the sky in a few weeks! However, it will reach about 7th magnitude (meaning not very bright) as it approaches perihelion (closest approach to the Sun), so you’ll need (decent) binoculars to see it.

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

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