Eyes on the November Skies: North Taurid & Leonid Meteor Showers

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, photo by Snap Happy Gal Photography

I woke up early this morning, and after seeing 5 meteors in just ten minutes, realized that the Taurid meteors were still kicking, how about an upcoming meteor shower update courtesy EarthSky’s 2015 meteor shower page:

Late night November 12 until dawn November 13, 2015, the North Taurids

Like the South Taurids, the North Taurids meteor shower is long-lasting (October 12 – December 2) but modest, and the peak number is forecast at about 7 meteors per hour. The North and South Taurids combine, however, to provide a nice sprinkling of meteors throughout October and November. Typically, you see the maximum numbers at around midnight, when Taurus the Bull is highest in the sky. Taurid meteors tend to be slow-moving, but sometimes very bright. In 2015, the new moon comes only one day before the predicted peak, providing a dark sky for the 2015 North Taurid shower.

Late night November 17 until dawn November 18, 2015, the Leonids

Radiating from the constellation Leo the Lion, the famous Leonid meteor shower has produced some of the greatest meteor storms in history – at least one in living memory, 1966 – with rates as high as thousands of meteors per minute during a span of 15 minutes on the morning of November 17, 1966. Indeed, on that beautiful night in 1966, the meteors did, briefly, fall like rain. Some who witnessed the 1966 Leonid meteor storm said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream. The meteors, after all, were all streaming from a single point in the sky – the radiant point – in this case in the constellation Leo the Lion.

Leonid meteor storms sometimes recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years, but the Leonids around the turn of the century – while wonderful for many observers – did not match the shower of 1966. And, in most years, the Lion whimpers rather than roars, producing a maximum of perhaps 10-15 meteors per hour on a dark night. Like many meteor showers, the Leonids ordinarily pick up steam after midnight and display the greatest meteor numbers just before dawn. In 2015, the rather wide waxing crescent moon sets in the evening and won’t interfere with this year’s Leonid meteor shower. The peak morning will probably be November 18 – but try November 17, too.

Read on for viewing tips and definitely try and take a look up at night when you can as the northern lights have also been very strong lately!

Heather writes that this image is a stitch of four 11mm frames with only minor adjustments to contrast – with no color saturation or vibrancy changes. It underscores what an incredible time for skywatching it is right now with low humidity making for extra-clear skies. View her photo background big and see more of her work at Snap Happy Gal Photography on Facebook!

More meteors & meteor showers & more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures.

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