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Your guide to observing the Taurid meteor shower
BY MARK ARMSTRONG
ASTRONOMY NOW

Posted: 5 November 2013


The Taurids meteor shower is active this month with a double radiant and a double peak and although not one of the major showers in the meteor calendar, it's worth observing with rates of perhaps 5-10 meteors per hour amongst all the artificial fireworks on bonfire night and then a week later. There was enhanced activity in 2005 and this is even more reason to keep a close watch on this shower.


Credit: Astronomy Now graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby
 
The Southern Taurids come first on the 5/6 November, with the activity expected to peak around midnight with the radiant lying in western Taurus about ten degrees south of the naked-eye open cluster the Pleiades (M45). The radiant culminates around 12.30am from the UK at a decent altitude 54 degrees above the southern horizon. From New York, the radiant culminates 10 degrees higher and 20 degrees higher at 1am CST from Houston.

The good news is that the Moon is just past new and sets early in the evening. Also, the tiny fragments burning up in the Earth's atmosphere, debris from the periodic comet 2P/ Encke, often produce bright events, fireballs even, and so could punch through the hazy, smoky, moonlight skies. Taurid meteors are also slow, with velocities around 25-30 kilometres per second.

The Northern Taurids peak on the night of 12/13 November are are slightly richer than their southern counterpart with a ZHR of 15 as opposed to 10. The radiant lies eight degrees or so further north close to M45, again near Taurus' border with Aries and will culminate at midnight over 60 degrees up. Watches on this night should be productive despite a waxing gibbous Moon over in the west, thankfully setting around 2am. Local skies should be free of all the smoke blighting the Southern Taurids. Coincidentally, November is one of the best months for high sporadic rates, the ever-present background, random shooting stars.

As with observing any meteor shower, the best advice is not to stare at the actual radiant but at an altitude of 50 degrees (about the same altitude of the Pole Star from the UK) and 30-40 degrees to one side of shower radiant (the width of a fist held at arm's length is about ten degrees). November nights can be bone-chilling so be well prepared, especially if you are travelling to a dark site to make your watch.

Wrap up well in layers of warm, dry clothing and keeping hands, feet and head warm is essential! Perhaps bring a flask of tea and a snack or two to sustain you if fatigue sets in. Try to find an observing spot where any streetlight or neighbour's security lights are not in your direct vision, as it's vital to try to preserve your dark adaption to enable the fainter meteors to be seen.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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