fireball swarm

Taurid ‘Fireball Swarm’ Possible Ahead Of Full Blood Moon In MD

November 8, 2022
3 mins read

The Taurids are known for producing more fireballs among 5 or 10 slow-moving meteors per hour. MD can also see the blood moon early Tuesday.

MARYLAND — Although usually not prolific, the Taurid meteor shower that chugs along through most of the fall could produce a rare “fireball swarm” if typical patterns hold true when the shooting star peaks over Maryland this weekend.

And early risers will catch the full moon eclipse on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the full blood moon. It’s the last total lunar eclipse until March 14, 2025, according to NASA.

AccuWeather’s long range forecast calls for cloudy skies and rain over Maryland on Friday, Nov. 11, as the remnants of Subtropical Storm Nicole pass through, and diminishing the next night, the peak of the Taurids. As with most meteor showers, the hours between midnight and dawn offer the best chances to see fireballs.

The Taurid meteor shower is composed of two streams, both of which are active right now. The Northern Taurids are expected to peak Nov. 12-13. But in reality, meteor experts say any night it’s clear over the next couple of weeks should be good for meteor watching.

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, so even with an 87 percent full moon, they should still be visible.

And if there’s an outbreak of fireballs — something that happens every seven years — the bright moon shouldn’t be a problem. Fireball swarms were reported in both 2015 and 2008, according to the American Meteor Society, so this could be a good year.

As the Taurid meteor shower parent Comet Encke orbits the sun, it leaves behind a trail of debris in its wake. The Taurids are produced when the debris hits Earth’s atmosphere at about 65,000 mph and burns up. But every seven years, brighter meteors called fireballs are created when Jupiter orbits close to the comet stream and its gravity pushes pebble-sized fragments toward Earth, creating more fireballs when the debris hits our atmosphere.

During the last Taurid meteor swarm in 2015, some observers reported seeing double the number of meteors and a much higher percentage than usual of fireballs, according to International Meteor Organization.

To see the most meteors, be patient. Your best chances to see fireballs occur in the hours between midnight and dawn. The radiant point, Taurus the Bull, will be well above the horizon. It’s not far from the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters.

You don’t need to identify the constellation to see the meteors, as they’ll appear all over the sky. But you should try to get away from city lights and be prepared to settle in and watch for a few hours. Be sure to dress for the weather.

Last Full Blood Moon Until 2025

November offers plenty of skywatching events. The highlight is the full moon eclipse on Tuesday, Nov. 8. You don’t want to miss the full blood moon — it’s the last total lunar eclipse until March 14, 2025, according to NASA, though we will continue to see partial and penumbral lunar eclipses during that time.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon align. A total eclipse occurs when the moon passes into the darkest part of Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, which turns the moon a reddish hue. Lunar eclipses are called “blood moons” because of this phenomenon.

The times you need to keep in mind:

  • Penumbral eclipse begins: 3:02 a.m.
  • Partial eclipse begins: 4:09 a.m.
  • Totality begins: 5:16 a.m.
  • Maximum eclipse: 5:59 a.m.
  • Partial eclipse ends: 7:49 a.m.
  • Penumbral eclipse ends: 8:56 a.m.
  • Duration of totality: 85 minutes

More Reasons To Look Up

It’s a good time to see bright planets, too, according to EarthSky.

Saturn is visible high in the sky after sunset. Jupiter shines brighter than most of the stars, and can be found high in the eastern sky after sunset. Mars rises in the eastern sky a few hours after sunset — it is very red right now and brighter than most stars as it moves toward its Dec. 8 opposition, when Earth will fly between Mars and the sun. Mars shines in the western sky on November mornings.

You may also start seeing shooting stars from the Leonids meteor shower, a show that runs Nov. 6-30 and peaks around the 17th and 18th. It puts on an average show of about 15 meteors an hour, except during cyclonic peaks every 33 years. That happened last in 2001, putting us years a way from an outburst.

What makes the Leonids spectacular any year is their swift movement across the sky — about 44 miles per second — and that increases the chances of fireballs.

The fall meteor showers reach a crescendo Dec. 13-14 when the spectacular Geminids peak. Experts say it is hands-down the best meteor shower in the heavens, producing 120 multicolored meteors at the peak. The shower runs Dec. 7-17.

The Ursids meteor shower, which runs Dec. 17-25 and peaks Dec. 21-22, is the final shooting star show of the year. At the peak, this minor meteor shower produces five or 10 meteors an hour.

The Washington Inquirer Editor

20 years in media business

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