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The Taurids meteor shower 2009

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posted on Oct, 28 2009 @ 05:24 PM
There are many meteor showers that occur over the course of a year, but the Taurids are a little bit different to most. It is commonly accepted that meteor showers are caused when Earth's orbit takes us through the trail of dust which a comet leaves behind it, and as each particle enters our atmosphere it crates the luminous phenomenon we call a meteor.

In the case of the Taurids, the particles (or meteoroids as they are known when they are still out in space) are believed to come from comet 2P/Encke. 2P/Encke is thought to have been part of a much larger "giant comet" that broke up 20-30K years ago.

The Taurid Complex
Unlike most other meteor showers, it's thought that amongst the mostly dust-sized meteoroids ejected by the parent comet 2P/Encke, there are also larger chunks of comet, produced when the comet broke up. This is the Taurid Complex - an orbiting cloud of dust, with a patchy "core" of larger objects.

On the other hand, while the orbits of some particles are quite dispersed, it is still likely that the Taurid stream has a narrow and dense core consisting of particles concentrated near the orbit of the stream's parent object, which is presumably related to Comet 2P/Encke. As the orbits of the material constituting this narrow, dense core have been subject to perturbations over thousands of years, it may be inferred that intense bombardment episodes have resulted at epochs when the material reaches Earth intersection. Dynamical calculations show that, as a Taurid-like orbit precesses, the northern daytime intersection occurs just a little (a few centuries) before the southern nighttime one, and the southern daytime one just before the northern nighttime one. That is, the four intersections occur in two pairs, and the influx of material to Earth is enhanced during epochs lasting a few centuries and spaced by a few millennia. The term "coherent catastrophism" has been used by astronomers at Armagh and elsewhere to describe the idea that there are strong patterns in the influx of extraterrestrial material to Earth.

The Taurid Complex

Taurid "swarm years"
During swarm years, Earth's orbit takes it closer to the core where large meteoroids are thought to reside. Last year was such a year, but this year is supposed to be a normal year.

This year
Recent studies have shown that the Southern branch of the Taurid meteor complex is active as early as September 07, according to Robert Lunsford of the AMS, so the shower has been underway for some time now.

The Southern branch peaks Oct. 30-Nov. 7, and the Northern branch peaks Nov. 4-7.

Observing Taurids
Because it's such an old and "fragmented" shower and the cometary debris is so widely spread, the shower peak is spread out over a few days, so if you go out and spend some time looking once it's dark around the start of November, you'll see some actual Taurid meteors for yourself. Perhaps even a bright fireball or two if you watch for long enough.

They are very distinctive, since they all have very low entry velocities compared to other meteor showers, and the meteors are often pure white (although they can also show other colors too). As a bonus, the best time to observe them is just after midnight local time wherever you are, unlike the better known showers like the Leonids, Perseids and Geminids which are most active just before dawn. Taurid meteors can be seen throughout the night, from the moment the light starts to fade till the first light of dawn.

The one downside, is that rates are usually quite low. You can expect to see perhaps 8-10 every hour in a good year under ideal conditions during the maximum nights. Realistically, expect to only see perhaps 4-5 per hour during peak. However, despite the low numbers, individual meteors can be spectacular, and more than make up for the lack in quantity! Just to prove it, here is footage of one from NASA's 2001 Leonid MAC mission.

Please keep in mind that other showers are also active at this time of year, and sporadic meteor rates during the early morning hours in the Northern hemisphere are close to their maximum at this time of year, so not every meteor you see if you go out and observe for a while will be a Taurid meteor shower member.

You can usualy tell if it's a shower member since meteors belonging to the same shower will always appear to travel away from the constellation the shower is named after, in this case Taurus. So if you can project the path of the meteor backwards in your head, and it points directly back to Taurus, the meteor is likely to be a Taurid.

The "point" (it's actually a small area of sky rather than a point) in Taurus where meteors appear to radiate from, is actually known as the "shower radiant". This effect is actually caused because meteors belonging to the same shower are all traveling in the same direction, or parallel to each other. Click here for an explanation of what a radiant is. (Scroll down about half way to where it says "What is a Radiant ?")

Related Links

Taurid shower info, history, and observations:

Last years Taurid meteor shower:
Heads up - it's a Taurid Swarm year!

Basic visual meteor shower observation techniques:
How to Observe Meteor Showers
How to View Meteor Showers - How to "See More Meteors"

This great video covers almost everything, but I would argue on a few points that were mentioned:

1. It's usually better to be totally flat when observing meteors since you can catch meteors close to any horizon with your peripheral vision when facing directly upwards.

2. If you live in a warm/tropical climate, you might get away with a blanket (or even less) to keep you warm, but I'd advise putting on multiple layers of warm cloths, and jumping into a sleeping bag if you want to observe for any length of time if you live away from the equator. If you are too warm (unlikely in most cases) then you can always remove a layer of cloths or two.

3. The camera exposure times he mentioned could be at the upper end of the scale if you have any light pollution at you're site and/or depending on your equipment/settings/how you want your photo to appear. It's worth experimenting before hand, but if you are using fast lenses/high ISOs (which you should be if you want to catch any meteors, although you may get lucky and catch a bright meteor anyway), exposures can be as short as 5 or 10 seconds. See links below for more info.

Advanced visual meteor shower observation techniques:

Photographing meteors:

General information:

Organizations and mailing lists:

[edit on 28-10-2009 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Oct, 28 2009 @ 05:28 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

Thank you for the info.
I love watching meteor showers, but I have to do some traveling to see them.
I live around too many lights.
The Taurids can be bright though.
* ~

[edit on 10/28/2009 by reticledc]

posted on Oct, 28 2009 @ 06:02 PM
Thanks from me as well for posting this. A nice collection of material you've presented. Looking forward to the show!

posted on Oct, 28 2009 @ 06:26 PM
reply to post by reticledc

You're welcome reticledc.

As you say, they can be bright, so it's not always necessary to find light-pollution free skies in order to see them, but as with all showers it does help, and you will nearly always see allot more.

I also feel your pain, as I also live somewhere that is very light polluted. It doesn't deter me from observing from here though, when I can't get out of town, although I'd much prefer to be somewhere remote.

posted on Oct, 28 2009 @ 06:37 PM
reply to post by articulus

My pleasure articulus. Hope you get to catch a few bright ones.

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