Meteor Showers – Taurids
A casual observer may watch the sky at night and see 3 to 5 sporadic meteors per hour. However, on some nights, this number may increase markedly, and on projecting the paths of the meteors back, we find that many appear to radiate from a tiny area in the sky. This point or place is termed the radiant of the meteor shower.
Meteor showers arise when the Earth passes through streams of debris left behind in the wake of comets and asteroids. Over time, the pieces of grit-like debris in these streams distribute themselves along the length of the parent object’s orbit around the solar system.
Shooting stars are seen whenever one of these pieces of debris collides with the Earth’s atmosphere, typically burning up at an altitude of around 70 to 100 km.
The Taurids are actually 2 showers – Southern and Northern and both are active from 10 September to 10 December, with the Northern peak around 0500 on 12 November 2022 in the Southern Hemisphere. The Southern Peak having already past but there have still been some bright meteors visible from the Southern Taurids in a dark sky.
The meteors associated with this shower are frequently bright, slow-moving, and noted for producing colourful fireballs (although not every year).
The Southern Taurids are associated with Comet 2P/Encke and can be seen from late evening to early morning. The Northern Taurids are associated with Asteroid 2004 TG10.
The waning gibbous Moon in Gemini will be just 4 days past full and unfortunately will impair viewing during peak after it rises at around 11pm local time.
Over the 2 month period, there will be a chance of seeing Northern Taurid meteors whenever the shower’s radiant point – in the constellation Taurus – is above the horizon, with the number of visible meteors increasing the higher the radiant point is in the sky.
Seen from Eastern Australia the shower will not be visible before around 20:35 each night, when its radiant point rises above the eastern horizon. It will then remain active until dawn breaks around 05:21.
The shower is likely produce its best displays in the hours around 02:00 AEDT, when its radiant point is highest in the sky.
The last time the Earth encountered a concentration or swarm of Taurid meteors was in 2015. That year, rates for the South Taurids reached 10 per hour with numerous fireballs. In 2022, we have another opportunity to witness enhanced rates of fireballs during a two-week period. That period is centred on the peak date of November 5.
Book a star gazing tour today and experience the night sky!