The Taurids aren’t the only reason to look up, though. Shooting stars will blaze across the sky throughout November, with the much anticipated Leonids peaking at mid-month, and continuing into early 2024. Toward the end of November, the moon will get in the way. For reference, the full beaver moon is on Nov. 27 this year.
First up during the next two months of incredible skywatching is the long-running Taurid meteor shower, a two-fer that consists of two different debris streams, the Southern Taurids and Northern Taurids. Both are active now and with the southern stream’s predicted peak — neither stream as a well-defined pinnacle — overnight Sunday, any night this weekend is a good time to start scanning the skies.
That’s dependent on the weather in Fremont, of course. Right now, it looks as if clouds could obscure the sky from Thursday through Sunday, with Monday a transitional day. But just two days after the predicted peak, on Tuesday, night skies should be clear for stargazing.
If the Taurids are known for anything, it’s producing a higher percentage of fireballs among the five or 10 slow-moving meteors per hour, when the Southern and Northern Taurids are most active in the next week or so. Stargazers should keep their expectations low for a repeat of last year’s “Taurid fireball swarm.” Although it could happen, the Taurids seem to put on a special show every seven years or so. Before last year, it last happened in 2015.
There are plenty of chances to see the Taurids even if this weekend doesn’t work out.
The Southern Taurids remain active through Dec. 8 and meteors will still fly with the expected peak of the Northern Taurids overnight Nov. 11-12. Active since mid-October, it’s the shorter-lived of the two streams, but still won’t wind down until about Dec. 2.
Skywatchers can expect to see about 10 shooting stars an hour as the two meteor showers intersect. Taurid meteors are slow, especially in contrast to last month’s beautiful Orionid meteor shower, whose shooting stars were second only to upcoming Leonid meteors in terms of speed.
The Leonids are just getting started, peaking Nov. 17-18, and continue through about Dec. 2.
The Geminds begin Nov. 19 and continue through Christmas Eve, peaking overnight Dec. 13-14. Put this one on the calendar. The Geminids are usually one of the strongest meteor showers of the year. Faithful stargazers have said this shower reliably produces a good number of bright, intensely colorful meteors before midnight. According to NASA, the Geminids can produce up to 120 meteors an hour at the peak.
The Ursid meteor shower intersects with the Geminids, running Dec. 13-24 and peaking Dec. 21-22. The Ursids are low-key, with only a sprinkling of meteors an hour.
And they intersect with the Quadrantids, potentially the strongest shower of the year, but also one of the hardest to catch. The Jan. 3-4 peak only lasts about six hours, and it’s often too cold at that time of year to spend too much time outside. Under dark skies, you could see 120 meteors an hour under a dark sky.
When the Quadrantids quiet down, meteor showers won’t reappear until spring 2024.
Daisy Hips is a science communicator who brings the wonders of the natural world to readers. Her articles explore breakthroughs in various scientific disciplines, from space exploration to environmental conservation. Daisy is also an advocate for science education and enjoys stargazing in her spare time.