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Taurid meteors promise Guy Fawkes fireball show

'Unusually good' display expected on 5 Nov

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Aficionados of meteor showers should cast their eyes heavenwards on 5 and 12 November for what are expected to be "unusually good" displays from the Taurids, possibly including fireball-inducing larger meteors colliding terminally with Earth's atmosphere.

The Taurid meteors - so named because they appear to emanate from the constellation Taurus - are the streamed remains of a disintegrated comet which "probably coalesced into a cluster due to gravitational tugs from Jupiter", as New Scientist puts it.

This cluster orbits the Sun every 3.4 years, so we don't always pass through it. But this year we're making a "glancing pass" of the debris; this began in October and will peak this month. The Taurids don't entertain with as many meteors as the Leonids or Perseids, but this time around they might offer around 20 burn-ups per hour.

The night of 5 November is reckoned to be the best bet, since the 12th is an almost full Moon. Northern hemisphere skywatchers will get the best view, although their southern hemisphere counterparts can take advantage of three to five hours of activity "around midnight on Wednesday, when the constellation Taurus is above the horizon".

Bootnote

The Taurids aren't the only remains of the disintegrated comet - it also left comet 2P/Encke which NASA hoped to examine with its CONTOUR spacecraft back in 2003. However, the probe went awol in 2002, apparently as a result of an engine firing which broke it in two.

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