Taurid Meteor Shower: How to Watch the 'Halloween Fireballs'

Our condolences, America.

If you’re reading this from the continental United States, or anywhere in the northern hemisphere, you won’t be able to see the South Taurid meteor shower this weekend.

But if you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll be able to see the show, which is expected to peak both nights of this weekend. 

The Taurids get their name the way all meteor showers do. Showers are named after their ‘radiants’—the stars around which the meteors appear to ‘fall’ when observed from earth. The ones that seem to fall from Orion’s belt are the Orionids, the ones that look near to the constellation Perseus are the Perseids, and so on.

The Taurid meteor shower (let’s see if you can guess it) falls near Taurus, the bull. The meteors themselves are leftover debris from the comet Encke. If and when you see the Taurid meteors, you’ll be looking at bits and pieces from the second-to-last time Encke passed through Earth’s orbit.

And the Taurids are about quality, not quantity. Dubbed the ‘Halloween fireballs’ for the brightness of their meteors, the Taurid showers present only about five to seven meteors per hour.

On Halloween night of 2005, the shower lived up to its name. "I thought some wise guy was shining a spotlight at me," an amateur astronomer from New Germany, Pennsylvania told NASA at the time. "Then I realized what it was: a fireball in the southern sky.” While children were out trick-or-treating throughout the United States, people reported spotting meteors “brighter than a full moon.”

And there’s some good news for stargazers in the northern hemisphere. There are two separate streams for the Taurids, divided between the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The South Taurids will hit this weekend, on November 4th and November 5th. The North Taurids are predicted to peak about a week later. So if you’re in the U.S., hang tight.

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