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Heads up - it's a Taurid Swarm year!

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posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 12:57 PM
This is one of my favorite subjects as you'll know if you've come across my posts before.

What are the Taurids?

Keen meteor observers will be familiar with the Taurids as a meteor shower that occurs from mid October to mid November. The Taurids, like most meteor showers are caused by small bits of comet as they impact and burn up in our atmosphere. In the case of the Taurids, their parent comet which is 2P/Encke is thought to have once been a part of a giant comet that broke up 20 - 30 kyr ago according to this source.

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 lurger chuncks 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

What is a "Taurid swarm year"?

During swarm years, Earth's orbit takes it closer to the core where large meteoroids are thought to reside. This year is such a year, and although the miss distance from the core center is relatively large this year (Delta M of -30), we should expect to see an increase in fireball class Taurid meteors compared to non swarm years.

Observing Taurids

The Taurid meteor shower peaks around the end of the month/start of November. 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. 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


There has been speculation that the Taurid Complex has caused major cataclysms in the past. Some even think it may have destroyed an advanced civilization living on Mars. It has also been suggested that Tunguska was caused by a fragment of comet from the Taurid complex.

Thoughts on the subject

I love this time of year. Taurid meteors are spectacular to watch, and I always look forward to seeing them. This year is a very good chance to observe and photograph the Taurids at their best. The Taurids are actually quite easy to photograph and film, since they are often bright and very slow compared to other meteor showers , so give it a try.

Good luck

Related Links :

Basic visual meteor shower observation techniques:

Advanced visual meteor shower observation techniques:

Photographing meteors:

General information:

Organizations and mailing lists:

[edit on 24-10-2008 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 01:10 PM
Great post. That must of been one hell of a mother load of ice and debris that comet flung off. Thinking about it, the actual comet itself must of been near planet size!

Thank you for reminding me this is a year to be outside looking up.

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 01:14 PM
Thanks for the heads up, always nice to get outside and marvel at the beauty of the cosmos. Not often i get to actually see frequent meteors, even during showers, due to living in the suburbs, but hopefully will be able to this time.

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 01:46 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

Thank you C.H.U.D.!

It's always a great to be reminded of these events. And a very informative OP too.

posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 04:28 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

yes thanks bro.

now i can dust my 25x100 bi-nokulars-

recently i have not been paying much attention to astronomical events so thank you for the reminder



posted on Oct, 24 2008 @ 04:33 PM
reply to post by C.H.U.D.

Many thanks Under dweller! There are many great spots along the beach here to see that on a clear night! No background lights what so ever, its pure darkness over ocean!
Going to be checking that out this year.. Thanks again for the heads up!

I spend alot of time outside on nice evenings here in Florida, and I always catch some shooting stars! I have seen bright flashing blues, greens, and hot white colors. Its really amazing to see, and sometimes Im thinking, if one of those chucnks are going to be part of something bigger..
Kinda scary, yet fun to do on a cool Florida night and some beers!

[edit on 24-10-2008 by zysin5]

posted on Oct, 25 2008 @ 10:50 AM

posted on Oct, 25 2008 @ 10:59 AM
Thanks for the heads up - I'm so looking forward to them.
I hope I can see them where I am!
I'll chug around through the URLS you listed and find out.

posted on Oct, 25 2008 @ 12:53 PM
I saw one last week, it only lasted for about 3 seconds but i was looking up just as it appeared and then went.

At least now i know what it was

posted on Oct, 25 2008 @ 02:53 PM
Thanks to all for dropping in here.

The Taurids should be visible wherever you are, but for people at far northern latitudes there won't be quite as many since the Taurid radiant (where meteors appear to radiate out from) does not climb as high above the horizon.

If you live in a suburb/city, don't let that put you off - some Taurids are bound to be faint and you'll miss those, but in swarm years there should be a good smattering of bright Taurids that should easily be visible from even the worst light polluted areas. Of course, if you can get away from the lights of your town/city, do so, as you will see more meteors and have a better experience overall. If you want to try and photograph them it's even more important to get away from light pollution, although you can still do so if you get a very clear sky and don't mind a bit of light pollution showing up in your shots.

The trick with meteor observing (especially for those living in more northerly locations), is to keep yourself warm. I like to put on a few layers of cloths and then jump into a sleeping bag.
You'll also want to lie down flat so that your angle of view takes in as much sky area of possible.

Try and avoid obstructions like trees and buildings that block your view. I use a reclining sun-lounger that also gives me a bit more elevation so even more sky is visible. Pick a spot where you have the best all round sky view possible, and try to keep any artificial lights out of your vision. Something to eat or drink is also a good idea, especially when you start to feel a bit drowsy, it can perk you up a bit.

Patience (and/or a bit of luck) will also help - the random nature and unpredictability of meteors often means lulls in activity. If you can ride out the lulls, then your patience is usually rewarded in my experience. If you can get out for a couple of nights in a row, that will dramatically increase your chances of seeing something special.

Remember - there are also many other minor meteor showers active at this time of year, so not all meteors you see will be Taurids. In fact, Taurids are likely to be the minority of meteors you will see, which is a good thing in some respects, since they help pass the time in between Taurids.

PS. No optical aids are needed for observing meteors - you want as wide a field of view as possible, or you risk missing meteors. Having said that, there are people who observe telescopically for meteors - meteors which would otherwise be difficult to observe with the naked eye, but with a bright shower like the Taurids you'd be better off with the naked eye.

On some occasions, if you are lucky, a bright meteor will leave a "persistent train" in the sky which can be interesting to observe through binocs, so I suppose they are worth dusting off just in case

Here are a few recent example photos of trains from this year's Orionids from :

You can see how a train evolves in this sequence:

It has to be said though, it's usually faster meteors like Leonids, Perseids and Orionids that tend to produce trains, so do not be surprised to not see any from Taurids, although they often leave a nice "wake" instead.

posted on Oct, 25 2008 @ 04:22 PM
reply to post by Tpot69


More likely it was an Orionid. The peak was over the weekend. It's been a good year for Orionids (despite major moonlight interfearence!), and they are still being reported now.

For 3 years in a row now the Orionids have been better than usual - that's a wakeup call if ever I saw one!
I might just have to mount a concerted observing campaign during next years Orionid shower. One to circle in the diary methinks!

This year could turn out to be very memorable as we are also expecting an outburst of Leonids just after midnight on the night/morning of the 16th/17th November - up to 150 meteor per hour should be visible at peak:

Edit - here's a direct link:


Despite the moon interfering during the Leonid peak, the meteors are predicted to be above average brightness this year, so we could be in for a treat. The peak is best placed for Europe/Africa/Middle East. 2009 is expected to be even better, and there won't be any moon to interfere.

Anyway, sorry, straying a little OT, but the point I'm trying to get across here is that there are meteor showers active all the time, and throughout the year. They tend to overlap each other, so various showers are usually active at any given time.

There are at least 4 or 5 other minor showers active right now as well as the Orionids, and the Taurids. By the time the Taurids are tailing off the Leonids will be active. All of this is on top of the back ground sporadic meteor activity which never ceases.

[edit on 25-10-2008 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 01:51 AM
Saw quite a few tonight, at the drive-in with the kids. They seem to be in every direction, about 5 an hour. One was a horizon-to-horizon fireball in the west, really awesome sight to see. Down here in South AL we don't get a good show from alot of the showers, unless you get up @3:00 am, so it was pretty cool to experience it with the kids. We will be looking up more at night, till the moon gets bright again in a week!

posted on Nov, 6 2008 @ 08:34 AM
Looks like the next few days could be the peak. has received the first confirmed report of a Taurid fireball this year - Here's a pic:

Keep those eyes peeled

posted on Nov, 6 2008 @ 09:10 AM
Ive spotted 2 fireballs in the past week or so. I had never seen one until October. Now I have seen 3, including the one towards the beginning of Oct. As an astronomer, I couldnt even begin to tell you how many hours I have spent with my eyes on the sky. Never until this year did I get to witness this magnificent phenomenon.

I would highly recommend getting out and spending some time looking up.

posted on Nov, 6 2008 @ 12:52 PM
Watch out zombiemann,

Looking for fireballs can be very addictive!

Like me, you might find yourself sneaking out on all the main shower peaks of the year. I sometimes find myself wondering, what the heck am I doing out in the middle of nowhere, and then a bright meteor or fireball will come along and remind me why!

I'd give almost anything to be able to see a repeat of the outburst that first got me interested in meteors. I saw more fireballs in that one night than I've seen in all the years between then and now, and I've seen quite a few in that time.

In about ten days time, we might even get a repeat performance, so keep an eye on the forum as I'll be putting a new thread on the Leonids together very soon!

posted on Nov, 7 2008 @ 11:15 AM
News of another Taurid fireball has just made it's way to me. This time it was caught on a video camera - quite spectacular too!

The video can be found here:

Edit to add - If you have not got it already, you'll need the following codec to view the video: 3iv2

It can be found here:
or here:

[edit on 7-11-2008 by C.H.U.D.]

[edit on 7-11-2008 by C.H.U.D.]

posted on Nov, 10 2008 @ 07:09 PM
As you may have seen if you looked at the "Leonids 2008" thread before this, the IMO have just made available "Live ZHR" graphs so we can monitor the Taurids in almost real time as results come in.

It looks like the Northen branch has already peaked as expected, but the Southern Branch may be peaking right now, or we are just passed the peak.

Either way, there should be a few Taurids about tonight and over the next few nights and even up to the peak of the Leonids next Monday - keep those eyes peeled

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