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It doesn’t matter that Halloween is over, because “Halloween fireballs,” as NASA calls them, can still be seen sparkling in the night sky for weeks to come, thanks to the Southern Tauride meteor shower.
According to EarthSky, the shower’s estimated peak won’t be until Saturday, and the Taurids are famous for producing the most and brightest fireballs — the meteors that can appear. Brighter than the planet Venus.
This year’s shower is expected to include more fireballs, otherwise known as the Taurid Swarm. Southern Taurides usually alone About five meteors appear per hour as it orbits its peak, the point at which Earth is closest to the center of the debris stream. But every seven years, Jupiter’s gravity pulls on the meteor stream and causes an increase in their number.
“At the normal rate of fireballs, someone would have to sit outside for 20 hours to see one,” said Robert Lunsford, fireball reporting coordinator for the American Meteor Society. “With Taurids (that time) can be reduced considerably, maybe to five hours. And if you’re really lucky, you might see one within minutes of stepping outside. When they appear it is completely unexpected.’
The Taurids are the result of the breakup of a very large comet about 20,000 years ago. Among other debris, the breakup produced comet Encke, which has an orbit around the sun of just over three years, the shortest of the major comets in our solar system. Every time the Earth passes through its short orbit, it leaves a trail of debris behind. This route includes the Southern Taurides, a cluster so large that it takes our planet a few weeks to pass through.
“Most meteor showers contain small dust particles. Well, the Taurids … also have some large particles,” said Bill Cooke, manager of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “And you’ll see, while the shower is active, not dust particles, but pebble-sized particles, and some ( (that) are about the size of footballs and bigger, of course, producing glowing fireballs.”
Taurid fireballs are meteors larger than a meter and are extremely bright, according to NASA. They move slowly because they strike the Earth’s atmosphere at a perpendicular angle, so they can be seen moving across the sky in seconds, compared to the milliseconds of visibility afforded by most meteors. According to Lunsford, brighter, longer-lived meteors can be seen breaking up and falling apart as they travel across the sky. Fireballs are often colorful, appearing red, orange, or yellow.
“It would be like a shooting star,” said Mike Hankey, director of operations for the American Meteor Society and creator of its ball-tracking program. “But instead of lasting half a second, it can last three or four seconds, and instead of being as bright as a star, it can be as bright as the moon, sometimes even brighter.”
This year the meteor association has already recorded an average increase in the number of fireballs, and NASA has photographed fireballs in the night sky that appear even brighter than the moon.
According to Lunsford, the best time to go outside and spot a fireball will be 2:00 a.m. during the next week. As the moon approaches its full moon phase on November 8, its glow will interrupt the chances of seeing fainter meteors, but the fireballs, because of their size and brightness, can be seen anywhere in the world, at any time. the night
You can see four more meteor showers in the rest of 2022, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide:
• November 12: Northern Taurides
• November 18: Leonidas
• December 14: Geminids
• December 22: Ursidas
And there are two more full moons in The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2022 calendar:
• November 8: Beaver Moon (will peak with the total lunar eclipse)
• December 7: Cold moon