A bright fireball is seen over Birkeni, Slovenia, on November 12, 2015, during a Taurid swarm. This month, another swarm is upon us, with fireballs visible in the sky throughout November. (Marco Korosic, Solent News, Shutterstock)
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Atlanta – Never mind that Halloween is over, because “Halloween fireballs,” as NASA calls them, can still be seen glowing in the night sky for the next few weeks, thanks to the South Taurids meteor shower.
The estimated shower peak won’t be until Saturday, November 5, according to EarthSky, and the Taurids are known for producing the brightest and brightest fireballs — meteors that can appear brighter than Venus.
This year’s shower is expected to include an increasing number of fireballs, known as the Taurid Swarm. The Southern Taurids typically feature about five meteors per hour around their climax, which is the point where Earth is closest to the center of the debris stream. But every seven years, Jupiter’s gravity pulls the meteor current and causes a sudden rise in their numbers.
“With the normal rate of fireballs, someone would have to sit outside for 20 straight hours to see one,” said Robert Lunsford, Fireball Report Coordinator for the American Meteor Association. “With Taurids,[that time]can be reduced a little bit, maybe to five hours. And if you’re really lucky, you can just go out in a few minutes and see one. When they show up completely unexpectedly.”
The origin of the bull
The Taurids are the result of the disintegration of a very large comet about 20,000 years ago. Among other debris, this disintegration created Comet Encke, which orbits the Sun for just over three years and is the shortest of any major comet in our Solar System. With each pass of the Earth in its short orbit, it leaves behind a trail of debris. This route includes the South TauridsAnd the It is a mass so large that it takes our planet several weeks to pass through it.
“Most meteor showers contain small bits of dust. Well, Taurids … also contain some large particles,” said Bill Cook, chief of NASA’s Meteorite Environment Office. “And you’ll see, while the shower is active, not particles of dust, but pebble-sized particles – and some (those) the size of a football and larger, which of course produce wonderful, wonderful fireballs.”
see a fireball
According to NASA, Taurids fireballs are meteorites over a meter wide, and they shine exceptionally well. They are moving slowly as they hit Earth’s atmosphere at a perpendicular angle, such that they can be seen moving across the sky for a few seconds, versus a millisecond of the visibility that most meteors produce. According to Lunsford, the brighter, longer-lived meteors can be seen crumbling and disintegrating as they travel across the sky. Fireballs are often colored and appear red, orange, or yellow.
“It’s going to be like a shooting star,” said Mike Hankey, COO of the American Meteor Association and creator of its fireball tracking software. “But instead of lasting half a second, it might last three or four seconds, and instead of being as bright as a star, it might be as bright as the moon — and sometimes even brighter.”
It will be like a shooting star. But instead of lasting for half a second, it might last for three or four seconds, and instead of being as bright as a star, it might be as bright as the moon—and sometimes even brighter.
– Mike Hankey, American Meteor Society
This year, the meteorite community has already recorded an above-average increase in fireballs, while NASA has photographed fireballs that appear brighter than the moon in the night sky.
The best time to get outside and spot a fireball will be 2 a.m. local time for the whole of next week, according to Lunsford. As the moon approaches the full moon phase set for November 8, its brightness will begin to disable the chances of seeing faint meteors, but fireballs, due to their size and brightness, can be seen anywhere in the world, at any time during the night.
Other space events this year
There are four more meteor showers you can see in the remainder of 2022, according to EarthSky’s 2022 Meteor Shower Guide:
• November 12: North of Torres
• November. 18: Leonidas
• December 14: Gemini
• December 22: Ursids
There are two more full moons in The Old Farmer’s Almanac calendar for 2022:
• November 8: Beaver Moon (which will peak next to the total lunar eclipse)
• December 7: Cold Moon
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