What is a meteor and where do they come from?
A meteor is a bright flash of light in the sky (a “shooting star” or a “falling star”) formed by the entry of a small meteoroid into the atmosphere of Earth. On an average night, if the sky is dark clear, you will probably see a few meteors per hour. During one of the annual meteor showers, you may see as many as 100/hour. Meteor showers appear to originate from a particular constellation. Based on this constellation, every meteor shower has been given a specific name.
Now let’s talk about Southern Taurids. The Southern Taurids meteor shower appears within the boundaries of the Taurus constellation. The meteor shower can be seen from September 17 to Nov 27 with the peak occurring from 30th October to 7th November, every year.
Skywatchers in the Southern Hemispheres will have two different peak viewing times. But the estimated dates can have some wiggle room because meteor rates will be low throughout the meteor shower. Typically, the Taurids produce only a handful of visible meteors per hour.
Late-night November 4 until dawn November 5, 2020, the South Taurids
The meteoroid stream towards South (and North), Taurids meteors spread out and diffuse. Thus, the Taurid meteor shower lasts for a long time (September 25 to November 25) but usually doesn’t offer more than about five meteors per hour, even on their peak nights. However, the Taurids are well known for having a good percentage of fireballs, or some exceptionally bright meteors. Plus, the two Taurid showers – South and North – increase each other. In 2019, the expected peak night of the South Taurid shower occurred when a waning gibbous moon lit up the sky almost all night long. Peak viewing of the meteors is just after midnight, though it was under the glaring light of a bright waning gibbous moon. The South and North Taurid meteors continued to fall down throughout the following week, but with the interference from the waxing gibbous moon!
Taurids are associated with Comet Encke. As this comet orbits the sun, it leaves a trail of crumbs in its path. In some years, Jupiter’s orbit brought comet’s trail closer and due to this the gas giant’s gravity pushes the comet particle stream toward Earth. So due to this, more meteors are visible to observers. This is called s an “outburst by the Astronomers.
Most meteor showers come from small fragments getting burnt up in Earth’s atmosphere, but calculations indicate that Comet Encke’s debris could produce such big meteors that can survive a trip to the ground. These meteorites might not have been discovered yet. No one knows how big a Taurid meteorite can be, but Cooke said the comet chunks are estimated to weigh a few ounces.
Typically, Taurids occur at a rate of about 5 per hour, moving slowly in the sky at about 28 kilometers per second 100,800 km/h). If the size is larger than a pebble, these meteors can become bolides as bright as the moon and leave smoke trails behind them.
The Tauridshower has a series of activities that peaks roughly every 2,500 to 3,000 years. Another reason for Taurids having increased peaks is a result of the heavier concentration of material in the stream, which Earth encounters during some passes.
In 1993, it was predicted that there would be a buzz of activity in 2005. Around Halloween in 2005, many fireballs were witnessed in the sky that affected people’s night vision. Astronomers called these the “Halloween fireballs.”
During the Southern Taurid meteor shower in 2013, fireball sightings were witnessed over southern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.
What causes the Taurids?
The Taurids origin from Comet Encke, which is a short-term periodic comet that orbits the sun about once every 3.3 years. It was first spotted by Pierre Mechain in 1786 and was first recognized as a periodic comet in the 1800s by Johann Franz Encke.
How to get the best view?
Meteor showers require no special equipment to view. Just travel to an area that has few or no lights, away from the cities. Get comfortable on your back and stare straight up at the sky. This will let you observe more meteors than by staring in one direction.
So, hope you keep all your eyes towards sky to witness its amazing meteor shower!!