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Fireballs Take the Skies as Taurid Meteors Salute Our Veterans

Taurid Meteor shower blesses veterans during second half of November.
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Normally the Taurid meteor shower is nothing much to look at, but this year it is serving up an extra array of fireballs, astronomers say.

“Higher rates of Taurid fireballs might happen in seven-year cycles, and the last grand fireball display was in 2008,” notes Earthsky.org. “That could be good news for Taurid-watchers in 2015!”

So far there have been a fair number of fireballs, which is what happens to meteors when they descend languidly and shallowly, skipping across Earth’s atmosphere to disintegrate in a blaze of glory, a perfect salute to veterans.

It comes in two parts, the North Taurids and South Taurids, which are from the same comet, but may have been divided into two streams by Jupiter’s gravitational field, according to Earthsky.org—although Space.com floats another theory: old age.

“The meteors that make up the Taurid meteor shower are attributed to debris left behind by Encke's Comet, or perhaps by a much larger comet that upon disintegrating, left Encke and a lot of other rubble in its wake,” says Space.com. “Indeed, the Taurid debris stream contains noticeably larger fragments than those shed by other comets, which is why in certain years—and 2015 is predicted to be one—this rather elderly meteor stream occasionally delivers a few unusually bright meteors.”

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The South Taurids peaked before dawn on November 5 but are still visible through the first two weeks of November. And overnight on November 11–12, as well as November 12–13, they will joined by the peaking North Taurids, says Earthsky.org. Both emanate from the constellation Taurus the bull, with the radiant point near the Pleiades, but one does not have to look in that direction to see shooting stars.

RELATED: Pleiades: The Seven Sisters Surround the Moon

Moonlight interference will go from minimal to nil, as the moon is waning and will be new—in other words, completely invisible—by the time the North Taurids peak.

Since the Taurids seldom deliver more than seven meteors per hour—their impact is in the flash rather than the number—the best way to watch is over the course of several hours, lying back in a lawn chair. To watch, the usual caveat applies: If possible, steer clear of city lights.

“Taurus climbs upward as evening deepens into late night, and soars highest for the night shortly after midnight,” notes Earthsky.org. “The higher that Taurus appears in your sky, the more meteors that you’re likely to see. Because Taurus is a northern constellation, it climbs higher in the Northern Hemisphere sky than for our cousins in the Southern Hemisphere.”