A rare Taurid meteor swarm will send fireballs across the sky this week, in a spectacular display which only occurs once in a decade.
This announcement was made by researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and makes the upcoming celestial event even more unmissable than usual.
The Taurid meteor shower takes place on an annual basis between September and October, as the Earth passes through the space debris which was left behind by Comet 2P Encke.
Encke is the first periodic comet identified by astronomers after Halley’s Comet, and it is believed that the Tunguska event which occurred in 1908 was actually caused by a fragment from the icy object’s body.
The stream of matter that Encke leaves behind during its 3.3 year orbit around the Sun is actually the most significant in the inner solar system.
Because it’s so widespread, it takes our planet several weeks to go through it, in contrast with other meteor showers which only last a few days.
Also, the comet fragments travel at lower speeds than other meteors as they go through the Earth’s upper atmosphere, reaching velocities of just around 17 miles per second.
Moreover, the Taurid meteor shower’s composition is different from the usual, because it also includes pea-sized pebbles, aside from dust grains and other smaller fragments.
According to scientists, the intensity of this year’s phenomenon will be incredible because the Earth will be moving through a denser cloud of larger particles, so sky gazers should definitely keep their eyes peeled the following days.
It’s will be the first time since 2005 that amateur and professional astronomers will get to admire a meteor swarm, with numerous fireballs seemingly shooting upwards across the sky and lighting the night with their unusual brightness.
The spectacle is expected to last arround a week and a half, and two separate streams with different orbits will be observable the following days.
The south Taurid meteor shower will be peaking between midnight and dawn on November 5 and 6. The north Taurids, which have been nicknamed the “Halloween Fireballs”, will be in full force on November 11 and 12.
According to Bill Cooke, at NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office, meteor cameras have reported steady activity recently, so the upcoming sky show is bound to be exhilarating, especially since the moon is currently waning.
Around 7 meteors will be observable every hour at the peak of the south Taurids, while the north ones will be slightly more numerous.
In order to witness the Taurid meteor swarm, one need only look for the Taurus constellation, above Orion, because that’s where the shooting stars will appear to radiate from.
For extra help in identifying the star formation, NASA recommends using the SkyView app, which can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple Store.
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