Autumn nights are ideal for viewing meteor showers; colder weather and a thinner atmosphere often equates to clearer and crisper images of space. Should you venture outdoors this month, take the opportunity to view the two separate meteor showers that will light up the sky this November.
The Taurid meteor shower, nicknamed the “Halloween fireballs,” is the first event to look forward to. It occurs every fall, between mid-October and late November, and is expected to peak between November 5th and November 12th this year. There are two different manifestations of the Taurid – the Northern Taurids and the Southern Taurids, both of which are among the slowest moving meteors. Fortunately for us, this means that they produce some of the most brilliant bursts of light. You can expect to see about half a dozen meteors per hour for the Southern Taurids tonight, on November 6th and twice that many per hour for the Northern Taurids, next week on November 11th.
If you happen to miss this first opportunity, November’s other significant meteor shower, the Leonids, peaks later in the month on November 18th. Unlike the Taurids, the Leonids are some of the fastest moving meteors, traveling at a rate of 255,000km per hour. The best view will come during the pre-dawn hours, although the shower has been diminishing over the last few years. Regardless, it is an annual event many observers look forward to. Under a dark night, it’s still possible to see a dozen or so meteors streak across the sky.
But until then, keep an eye out for the “Beaver” Moon, which will rise tonight. This November full moon, aka the “Frosty Moon” received its name from Native American tribes who would set traps around this time, before the lakes began to freeze over. According to EarthSky.org, it will become visible 20 minutes after the sun sets tonight. Unfortunately, this may dramatically reduce the visibility of the showers as the bright moonlight lights up the sky, but the meteors will gradually become more visible through out the course of the night.
Either way, it’s probably a good time to whip out those telescopes.