November meteors

¡SkyCaramba! Weekly astronomy blog for the week of November 8 to 14, 2015

November has been a great month for meteor showers for a long time. There are two meteor showers this month.

The Northern Taurid shower is produced when dust from Comet 2P/Encke burns up in the upper atmosphere. The Northern Taurid shower peaks around November 12. These meteors appear to radiate from a spot near the Pleiades.

As with most meteor showers, the first Northern Taurids may be seen a few weeks before the peak and the last ones a few weeks after. There is another shower, the Southern Taurids, that peaks in October. As the names should tell you, both showers radiate from Taurus. One radiant is a little north of the other. It’s possible you will see a Southern Taurid in November and think it’s a Northern Taurid.

You don’t have to worry about the distinction if you don’t want to. Very enthusiastic meteor watchers and professional astronomers use video and still pictures to determine which is which. If you take any really good pictures or video, you may want to contact the International Meteor Association. Be sure to note the exact times and dates of the images.

Since Taurus is up most of the night this time of year and the moon is new during the November peak, you can go out pretty much any time when it’s dark out to try to see a meteor. You may need to get out of town away from city lights. After that, the key is patience. You may see only five Taurids per hour.

The Leonids peak around November 17 and 18. They come from Comet 55/P Tempel-Tuttle. The moon is almost at first quarter during this year’s peak. It sets in the evening. And Leo, the constellation the meteors come from, is up in the morning. So if you can be out after midnight, you have a good chance of seeing a Leonid. You may see just a few Leonids per hour this year.

The Leonids are probably the most famous meteor shower. Their parent comet orbits the sun every 33 years. But its orbit crosses so close to Earth’s, our planet sometimes passes through some very dense parts of its trail. The Leonids shower of 1833 produced thousands of meteors per hour!

However many or few they are, enjoy November’s meteors.