Depending where you live, you may have seen the skies light up with fireworks over the weekend. But this week we’ll be treated to a different type of (non-political) light show: the Northern Taurid meteor shower. While it technically started in October, the shower will peak this week — specifically tomorrow and Thursday (November 11 and 12) — and will likely include visible fireballs in the sky. Here’s how to spot them.
When is the Northern Taurid meteor shower?
Even though the Northern Taurid meteor shower has been going on since October, it will be most visible on November 11 and 12, so set your phone reminders now. The view will be the best this week because Earth will be going through the densest part of the debris stream of a comet, Bill Cooke Jr., the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, told CNN.
What about the fireballs?
The image of fireballs in the sky sounds kind of scary — although not out of place in 2020 — but the ones we’ll see this week are far away, safe to view, and won’t hurt anyone, Cooke told CNN. We can expect to see approximately five fireballs and hour on November 11 and 12. (Younger-me would have made that into a drinking game where you took a shot of Fireball cinnamon liquor and danced to the Jerry Lee Lewis and Pitbull songs whenever you spotted one in the sky, though that’s probably not the best way to mark this astrological phenomenon.)
So how do you know if you’ve seen a fireball? Fireballs are very bright meteors — brighter than Venus (which is the brightest thing in the sky after the moon) — and usually last for one or two seconds. Normal meteors, on the other hand, fade after about half a second, Robert Lunsford, the American Meteor Society’s resident fireball report coordinator, told CNN.
How to watch the meteors and fireballs
To increase your chances of seeing nature’s light show this week, head to a location with limited light pollution.
The meteor shower will be most visible between midnight and just before dawn (in your local time) in the Northern Hemisphere. The moon will be out during the showers, but only shining at about 15%, so it could be worse. The Northern Taurid meteor shower lasts until December 10, and after that comes the Geminids meteor shower, which peaks in mid-December.