November Meteor Showers


Story by Zoe Wexler, Staff Writer

As the orbit of the Earth coincided with the paths of several comets, three major meteor showers lit up the night sky throughout all of November. Since these celestial events were visible without the use of a telescope, anyone around the Northern Hemisphere could view them given the right time and conditions. Although light pollution may have been an obstacle, astronomy fans were able to see the meteors through the official NASA All Sky Fireball Network.

The earliest occurring meteor stream of November was the Orionids, originating from the debris of Halley’s Comet. They appeared around the Orion constellation above Betelgeuse, hence the name, with an hourly rate of fifteen to twenty meteors during its peak. Although the Orionids began in early October and peaked later that month, they were still visible in certain parts of the Northern Hemisphere until early November. This meteor shower was one of the fastest, traveling at about 148,000 miles per hour. Although the moon may have washed out the light of the meteors, some viewers were able to see the Orionids on October twenty-first and twenty-second in the eastern sky during the early hours of the morning before sunrise.

The Taurid meteor shower was the next to take place in November, surrounding the Taurus constellation in the southeast direction. These Taurids were unique in the sense that they were actually two entirely separate meteor streams, the Northern and Southern Taurids. These meteors are the cosmic debris of Encke’s comet, which will not finish its current orbit around Earth until June 2020. The Southern Taurids began this year in early September, remaining visible in some parts of the world until late November. Although they were supposed to peak around November 5th, the peak was not very significant, with no more than five meteors per hour, traveling at twenty-eight kilometers each second.

The Northern Taurids were about the same around their peak, which occurred on November 12th. This meteor stream began halfway through the Southern Taurids in mid-October, and continued as late as early December. The Northern portion of the Taurids were over twice the speed of the Southern meteors, going by at 147,000 miles per hour.

The last meteor shower in November was the Leonid meteor stream. This debris comes from the Tempel-Tuttle comet, and was most visible during its peak on November seventeenth. The meteors appeared just above the Leo constellation in the early morning when facing the east. About fifteen meteors appeared every hour, going by at 158,000 miles per hour. These meteors were the fastest to occur during November, and were among some of the fastest to be visible from Earth. The Leonids began within the first week of November, and were active through the end of the month.

Although all of the meteor shower peaks have already happened, that does not mean that all recent meteor activity is finished. It is still possible for many of these meteor showers to be viewed, if not in person, then from official websites and livestreams. Many other celestial events will occur in the coming months as well, as the Geminid meteor shower will be visible early December, as well as Mercury’s greatest western elongation.

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