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It doesn’t matter that Halloween is over, because ‘Halloween fireballs’, as NASA calls them, can still be seen blazing in the night sky for the next few weeks, thanks to the Southern Taurids meteor shower. .
The shower’s estimated peak isn’t until Saturday, November 5, according to EarthSky, and the Taurids are famous for producing the brightest fireballs – meteors that can appear brighter than the planet Venus.
This year’s shower is expected to include an increased number of fireballs, also known as Taurid Swarm. Southern Taurids usually only about five meteors per hour surrounding its peak, the point where Earth is closest to the center of the debris flow. But every seven years, Jupiter’s gravity pulls the stream of meteors and causes their numbers to increase.
“With the normal rate of fireballs, someone would have to sit outside for 20 hours straight to see one,” said Robert Lunsford, fireball report coordinator for the American Meteor Society. “With the Taurids, (that time) can be drastically reduced, maybe as much as five hours. And if you’re really lucky, you can just get out there and within minutes see one. When they appear is completely unpredictable. .
The Taurids are the result of the burst of a very large comet about 20,000 years ago. Among other debris, this rupture created Comet Encke, which has an orbit around the sun of just over three years, the shortest of any major comet in our solar system. Every time Earth passes through its short orbit, it leaves behind a trail of debris. This trail includes the Southern Taurids, which form a cluster so large that it takes several weeks for our planet to cross it.
“Most meteor showers contain tiny dust particles. Well, the Taurids … have big particles too,” said Bill Cooke, manager of NASA’s meteoroid environment office. “And you’ll see, while the shower is on, not dust particles, but pebble-sized particles – and some (which) are football-sized and bigger, which well sure produce bright, shiny fireballs.”
Taurid fireballs are meteors more than a meter in diameter and they shine exceptionally bright, according to NASA. They are slow-moving because they hit Earth’s atmosphere at a perpendicular angle, so they can be seen moving across the sky for seconds, compared to the millisecond of visibility that most meteors provide. According to Lunsford, the brightest and longest-lasting meteors can be seen breaking up and collapsing as they cross the sky. Often, fireballs are colored, 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 fireball 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 Society has already recorded an above-average increase in fireballs, while NASA has photographed fireballs that appear to be even brighter than the moon in the night sky.
The best time to get out and spot a fireball will be at 2 a.m. local time throughout next week, according to Lunsford. As the moon approaches its full moon stage set for November 8, its brightness will begin to disrupt the chances of seeing fainter meteors, but fireballs, due to their size and brightness, can be seen. anywhere in the world, anytime during the night.
There are four more meteor showers you can see in the rest of 2022, according to EarthSky’s 2022 meteor shower guide:
• November 12: Northern Taurids
• November 18: Leonids
• December 14: Geminids
• December 22: Ursids
And there are two more full moons on The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2022 calendar:
• November 8: Beaver Moon (which will culminate in a total lunar eclipse)
• December 7: Cold Moon
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