It doesn’t matter that Halloween is over. NASA calls them “Halloween Fireballs” and they can still be seen burning brightly in the night sky for the next few weeks thanks to the Southern Taurids meteor Shower.
According to EarthSky the peak of the shower isn’t until Saturday, November 5th. The Taurids are known for producing bright meteors that appear brighter than Venus.
The shower this year will include a greater number of fireballs, also known as a Taurid Swarm. The Southern Taurids typically only have five meteors per hour around their peak, which is the point at which Earth is closest to its center. However, every seven years Jupiter’s gravity pulls the meteor stream into its peak and causes a spike.
Robert Lunsford (fireball report coordinator at the American Meteor Society) stated that, with the usual rate of fireballs, one would need to be outside for twenty hours straight to see one. “With the Taurids (that time) can be reduced quite a lot, possibly down to five hours. If you are really lucky, one could be seen within minutes of you stepping outside. It’s completely unpredictable when they will appear.
Origin of the Taurids
The Taurids result from the 20,000-year-old breakup of a large comet. Comet Encke was formed by other debris. It orbits the sun for a little over three years. This is the longest orbit of any major comet in the solar system. It leaves behind a trail of debris after each orbit of Earth. This includes the Southern Taurids. They are a large cluster that takes several weeks for our planet to traverse.
“Most meteor showers have tiny particles of dust. The Taurids… also contains large particles,” stated Bill Cooke (NASA Meteoroid Environment Office Lead). “And you will see that the shower is active but not dust particles but pebble-sized particles. Some (that are larger than football size) also produce brilliant, brilliant fireballs.
A fireball in your eyes
According to NASA, fireballs from Taurid meteors are larger than a meter in diameter and shine extremely brightly. Because they strike the Earth’s atmosphere perpendicularly, they move slowly and can be seen moving through the sky for only a few seconds, as opposed to the milliseconds that most meteors give. According to Lunsford, brighter meteors are more visible fragmenting and falling apart while they travel through space. Fireballs can appear red, orange, or green, and are often colorful.
Mike Hankey, American Meteor Society’s operations manager, and creator of the fireball tracking program said that it would look like a shooting star. It might not last for a quarter of a second. And instead of being bright like a star, it might last three to four seconds. Sometimes, even brighter.
The meteor society already has seen an increase in fireballs this year, and NASA has taken photos of fireballs that seem brighter than the moon in the night sky.
According to Lunsford, the best time to spot a fireball is at 2 a.m. in the next week. The moon will be nearing its full moon stage on November 8th, and its brightness will cause problems for fainter meteors. However, fireballs can still be seen from anywhere in the world because of their size, brightness, and location.